Ukraine may sell part of the oil product pipeline to Belarus: a potential buyer is a firm affiliated with the administration of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and the seller is a company linked to Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s close associate and friend.
The Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine will consider the Belarusian Oil Bitumen Plant’s bid for the purchase of more than 50% of the shares of the PrikarpatZapadtrans company operating the Ukrainian part of the Samara-Western Direction oil product pipeline. The nominal owner of the pipeline is the Swiss company International Trading Partners AG. Its owner is German citizen Anatoly Scheffer. According to media reports, he belongs to the inner circle of Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who, in turn, is a crony and vocal supporter of the Russian leader. Vladimir Putin is rumoured to be the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.
“This pipeline is of strategic importance; it is highly lucrative on a mid-term horizon,” Gennady Ryabtsev, an expert in the field of energy, said.
As Ukraine is not able to meet its need for petroleum products, the Ukrainian market is very appealing to Belarus. But over the recent years, Russia has been close on the heels of Belarusian suppliers.
“Naturally, Belarus is set to regain the lost part of the market, and it will be working for it. The Ukrainian authorities might well be saying that there is no Russian oil in the country, but the Russian Federation is Belarus’ major rival competitor in the Ukrainian market. Therefore, Belarusians will try to drive out Medvedchuk’s assets, i.e. Russian suppliers, out of it,” Ihar Tyshkevich, a representative of the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, stressed.
The acquisition of the Ukrainian part of the Samara-Western Direction pipeline is strategically vital for Minsk. This year, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has held at least two meetings with Viktor Medvedchuk. By itself, the infrastructure does not matter much. Experts believe that only one product can be pumped through the pipeline – Russian fuel, and any of its owners will be focused on cooperating with Russian companies.
“What kind these arrangements are of, what guarantees are, whether this ownership is formal or actual – those are different questions. But it is obvious that they will not do without coordinating actions with Russians and the owners of Russian resources,” expert Sergei Kuyun said.
Earlier, the Oil Bitumen Plant was set to purchase the state-owned stake in the Ukrainian Centrenergo company, which is the owner of three thermal power plants, but in December the privatization failed – the Ukrainian State Property Fund claimed there was Russians’ involvement in the deal.