Yuriy Boyko, Ukraine’s current and past energy minister, has long been at the center of Ukraine’s energy sector -- including troublesome talks with Russia on natural gas.
If the reported words in 2006-07 of then-US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and other experts are to be believed , Boyko helped to created RosUkrEnergo, the controversial Swiss-registered energy trader that has made some individuals close to him spectacularly wealthy.
These are among the findings in the treasure trove of WikiLeaks documents now made public. The disclosures opened up previously classified or confidential U.S. government communications, mainly from embassies abroad.
“Fuel and Energy Minister Boyko … has repeatedly stressed the positive role RosUkrEnergo (RUE) plays in affording Ukraine cheap energy. The non-transparent middleman, which Boyko helped create, expects to expand further its influence in Ukraine’s energy market through acquisitions made either by itself or by its subsidiary, UkrGazEnergo,” Taylor allegedly wrote in a 2007 diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks.
The U.S. ambassador, however, had a clearly negative view of RosUkrEnergo’s activity in Ukraine. He and other U.S. officials saw Boyko and RosUkrEnergo as agents of Russian influence who strived to undermine Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz.
RosUkrEnergo is co-owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom and Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash.
Firtash is a strong backer of President Viktor Yanukovych and an arch-enemy of the president’s imprisoned rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, who ended up in prison after trying to squeeze Firtash out of the bilateral gas trade in a 2009 agreement.
According to documents obtained by the Kyiv Post, Firtash years ago yielded power of attorney control over his assets to Boyko. The energy minister, in turn, has admitted to holding a seat on RosUkrEnergo’s board while serving as energy minister in the past. He has since strugged to explain when he was removed from this position.
Tymoshenko, now serving a seven-year prison term after a dubious criminal conviction for abuse of office, has long claimed that Firtash, Boyko, Yanukovych and current Presidential Administration chief Serhiy Lyovochkin are benefactors of RosUkrEnergo. All have denied wrongdoing. Boyko served as energy minister in 2006-2007 and was reappointed by Yanukovych after he became president in 2010.
Boyko, Lyovochkin and Yanukovych have denied having an interest in RosUkrEnergo, which heavily profited in the multi-billion-dollar business of supplying Ukraine with blue fuel for years until Tymoshenko’s 2009 deal with then-Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Firtash, with Boyko again as energy minister, started last year importing gas into Ukraine again from Russia, sidestepping Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz through a company called Ostchem.
In a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, Taylor wrote in 2006 that Russia had stepped up efforts to influence Yanukovych, who had returned that year as prime minister after a humiliating defeat in the 2004 presidential election.
“There also seems to be a lot of agreement that there are some in Yanukovych’s circle, including [current Prime Minister Mykola] Azarov and Boyko as well as foreign policy adviser Orel, who are very close to Russia and are nudging the PM to move in that direction,” he wrote, according to U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks.
In a separate 2006 diplomatic cable, Taylor wrote that the activity of a newly formed domestic gas trading intermediary company co-owned by RosUkrEnergo, namely Ukrgazenergo, was geared towards becoming a major domestic gas supplier, severely cutting into the business of state energy company Naftogaz and undermining it.
Referring to the establishment of a Ukrgazenergo, Taylor wrote: It “is further proof of how far former state champion Naftogaz has fallen in less than a year.”
In a separate U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006, another U.S. official wrote: “Based on past experience, any Boyko-bartered deal could well be creative but non-transparent.”