MOSCOW, December 13 (RIA Novosti) – A Ukrainian billionaire denied on Friday that he could return as a middle man in a deal to supply Russian gas to Ukraine, a news agency in Kiev reported.
Dmitry Firtash said he had no intention of being an intermediary in gas supplies to Ukraine, according to Ukrainskie Novosti.
The comment followed Russian reports suggesting that there could be a revival of an arrangement in place before 2009, when Russia’s state-owned Gazprom sold gas to an intermediary company, which then resold the fuel to Ukraine's Naftogaz.
"I don't intend to embark on any intermediary activities. All the rest is rumors that are not based on anything," Ukrainskie Novosti reported Firtash as saying.
Rosukrenergo, a company jointly owned by Firtash, his business associate Ivan Fursin and Gazprom, acted as an intermediary in gas sales between Gazprom and Naftogaz until 2009. Vedomosti reported Friday that the scheme could be revived.
The arrangement was abolished under the controversial gas contract signed in 2009 by Yuliya Tymoshenko, as Ukraine's prime minister, and Vladimir Putin, then Russia's prime minister. Tymoshenko is now serving a seven-year jail sentence after being convicted of abuse of office in relation to the contract.
Gazprom has threatened to impose a pre-payment regime on Ukraine over unpaid debts of $2 billion for gas. Expectations are growing that Ukraine could receive more favorable terms for gas deliveries after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a key trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
The decision has triggered massive street protests in Kiev, demanding Yanukovych's resignation. He is expected in Moscow next Tuesday for talks with President Putin after the two men discussed the gas dispute between their two countries in Sochi last week.
Firtash, 48, who worked in Russia for a significant period of his career, has major assets in the chemical and energy industries in Ukraine and several countries in Europe.