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Naftogaz of Ukraine afraid of Gazprom: its CEO given an armored car and bodyguards

Andriy Kobolev, Naftogaz CEO. Photo: politdengi.com.ua

In view of its lawsuit against Gazprom, Naftogaz of Ukraine has bought an armored car for its CEO Andriy Kobolev. Despite its last year’s losses of 25 billion UAH or $1 billion, the company has paid as much as $200,000 for the car.

“Gazprom’s claims against us amount to $28.7 billion (for nonfulfillment of the contract – edit.), while our claims total $26.6 billion (for nonpayment of noncontractual ‘fair’ transit fee – edit.). Both cases are to be heard in the autumn. Kobolev is not only a witness in the case but also the head of the claimant-company,” says Naftogaz of Ukraine.

In view of some hypothetical threat (probably, of a contract murder), the company has bought an armored Mercedes Benz S600 Guard for as much as 4.5 million UAH or $181,000. Some 310,000 UAH or $13,000 will be spent on four bodyguards, who are supposed to follow Kobolev on a daily basis and to have guns and Teren 4M gas sprays.

“Naftogaz has never been on good terms with Gazprom, but none of its CEOs have had an armored car or bodyguards so far,” says a source from the company. “The company has a security service but it has never had armored vehicles. Until recently Kobolev has used an ordinary Mercedes, used by his predecessor, and kept saying that his company was cutting its costs and was selling its cars.”

Officially, Naftogaz alleges these expenses are akind of insurance policy. “Our decision is based on standard business logic. This is like buying an insurance policy: your better spend more today than lose an asset tomorrow. In this case, the asset is the benefit we will get if we win our case in Stockholm,” the company says.

Thus, for Naftogaz the outcome of the lawsuit in Stockholm depends on the existence of one person rather than the existence of proofs.

Naftogaz has long made Gazprom a scapegoat for all of the mistakes it has committed since Maidan. Now it is seeking to make Gazprom a scarecrow and a cover of own corrupt schemes. For example, the lowest price for the Mercedes was offered by At Import, whose CEO is Vitali Bonk, who is also the head of the finances and debts unit at Naftogaz’s subsidiary, Ukrgazdobycha.

The founders of AT Import Alexey Prokhorenko and Dmytro Zhuravl are also related to Naftogaz: the former has founded Ukrainian Legion, an NGO led by former Deputy CEO of Ukrgazdobycha Alexey Tamrazov, the latter is the founder of two companies that have had joint projects with Naftogaz.

One more interesting nuance here is that the firm did not show the picture of the car just like one more bidder. So, this might well be one and the same car sold by Premiumauto and costing exactly as much as Naftogaz was planning to pay.

Today, Naftogaz has lots of programs to turn into a European company. It is not clear if this will improve the company’s efficiency but, according to a source from Naftogaz, this will certainly improve the “hard” lives of its managers.

“Officially, Kobolev gets 91,000 UAH or $4,000 a month. Now the company is going to convoke an independent supervisory council. The existing council consists of government officials, while the new one will comprise some experts. This will give the company’s managers free hand to raise their salaries as is the case in Ukrgazdobycha, where the Chairman of the Board gets as much as 955,000 UAH or $38,000 a month,” says the source.

The hearings of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce are scheduled for the autumn. Though having found money for the Mercedes, Naftogaz has no money for buying gas for winter. As of Aug 2, it had 10.7 billion cubic meters in stock. They in Kiev say that the least they need for winter is 14.5 billion cubic meters, while they in Brussels insist on 17 billion-18 billion. Currently, Ukraine is getting just 47 million cubic meters a day. Unless this level is raised, the country will have the target 14.5 billion cubic meters by November at earliest. Despite this problem, Naftogaz refuses to buy gas from Russia. But even if it agreed to buy Gazprom’s gas, it would have no money to pay for it as the $300 million lent by the EBRD was meant for reverse gas only, while the next $500 million loan from the WB is to be provided in September.

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