MOSCOW, May 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has invested $200 billion in Ukraine’s economy over the last 20 years, including discounts on natural gas prices, Russian Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukayev said in an interview with the RT news channel.
“Maybe our European and American friends do not understand that we support the Ukrainian economy … by undercharging them for gas and other natural resources, giving Ukraine loans, etc. Over the last 20 years we invested around $200 billion there,” Ulyukayev said.
Commenting on current economic relations between the two countries amid the ongoing crisis, Ulyukayev noted that it is hard to predict how events will unfold.
“In any case, Russia is interested in peace and prosperity being established in Ukraine. We continue to look for a way out of Ukrainian crisis but will focus on all regions and social groups that have to determine their own future,” the minister underlined.
According to Ulyukayev, the main issue between the countries is an agreement on association. Russia and Ukraine are tied by over 400 agreements, regarding different fields of integration in the CIS framework, including with the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
“Forty of these agreements are basic. We cannot just put them aside and forget about it,” Ulyukayev said.
If Ukraine signs an association agreement it would mean that Russian and Ukrainian officials will have to review technical, sanitary, veterinary and other norms. In addition, there is a danger that because of Ukrainian products not meeting European standards it will only be exported to the Russian market.
“There is a high possibility that it will force us to reconsider our system of tariffs and fees, which currently operate between Ukraine and members of the Customs Union – Russia, Belorussia and Kazakhstan,” Ulyukayev noted.
Russia suspended gas discounts for Ukraine after a regime change in late February. Kiev currently owes Gazprom $3.5 billion and must pay down its debt before June 3 or else gas deliveries could be suspended.
The West earlier accused Moscow of using Ukraine’s dependence on Russia’s natural resources to influence the country’s internal affairs. Moscow responded by saying that the EU and the US are welcome to pay Kiev’s debts and support its economy, as Russia did for almost two decades.