Russian Bear’s Power Grab Sparks Protests in Kyiv

Following yesterday’s startling and incoherent decision by Ukraine’s cabinet of ministers to dismiss the President of Energoatom Mr Yuri Nedashkovsky by a cavalier show of hands, workers of the company immediately staged a protest outside the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection on Kreshchatyk in Central Kyiv. 

The protestors demanded that Minister Orzhel should stop mocking Ukraine’s nuclear industry, stop selling out Ukraine’s energy sector to the Russian Federation and to renew the post of the President of Energoatom which is the embodiment of the pro-Ukrainian choice for the future of nuclear energy. 

Orzhel

Orzhel’s clandestine manipulation is a blatant power play to deliver Ukraine’s electricity sector to Russia on a plate, and destroy the country’s energy independence.

The demonstrators accuse Minister Orzhel, pictured right, of deliberately pro-Russian actions, of blocking the future development of the state of Ukraine, and putting at risk the safe and reliable operation of Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs).

The protestors are furious that the newly appointed Minister of Energy and Environment Oleksiy Orzhel through his actions demonstrates utter contempt and disdain for Ukraine’s strategic nuclear sector, which produces 55% of electricity for Ukrainian consumers. Yesterday’s decision to sack Yuri Nedashkovsky, was initiated sneakily by the Minister towards the end of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine meeting yesterday without any prior consultation with Nedashkovsky or other nuclear experts, in total breach and contempt of procedure.

The protestors argue that the accusations against Energoatom, published on the Ministry of Energy’s official website today, are fake news. They say the Ministry’s claims are manipulative, untrue and indicate that there are actually no valid reasons for the dismissal of Nedashkovsky. In particular, they point out the reference to “inefficient management” at the lowest tariff for electricity in the world – UAH 0.567 per unit actually delivered 11.5 billion hryvnias of revenue last year, implemented investment projects worth 12.8 billion hryvnias, and produced 55% of Ukraine’s electricity. This is notwithstanding the fact that the tariff is artificially set by the Regulator without a correct reference to true market prices.

Furthermore, they point out that for the first 9 months of 2019, Energoatom paid 30% of all the proceeds from the sale of electricity to the State Budget. Total sales amounted to 42 billion 780 million UAH of which the Company paid 12, 889 billion UAH to the budget of Ukraine. These figures represent the same amount that the company paid to the State Budget for the whole of 2017 and an increase of 15% over the figures for 2018.

Is Minister Orzhel really ready to be personally responsible and held to account for the dismissal of the head of the state-owned enterprise, which almost doubled its financial results compared to the planned 90% electricity for special obligations at the tariff rate of UAH 0.567 per unit? For the first 9 months of 2019, the net financial result of Energoatom was originally planned to reach UAH 2.6 billion, but in fact it achieved UAH 4.3 billion.

With the current artificial tariff and nuclear power plants that are prevented from operating by the Ministry, so that they can authorise the unnecessary import of electricity from the Russian Federation, and despite increasing quantitative indicators of disruptions in the operation of the NPPs, Energoatom has successfully passed all peer safety reviews of the international watchdogs WANO and the IAEA. 

The Ministry of Energy has published suspicions of embezzlement of state funds relating to events of more than 10 years ago, but this can only be regarded today as a confirmation by the Ministry of the leading position of Energoatom in the Company’s efficiency and transparency ratings over the past decade.

With regard to the Ministry’s allegations of unreasonable increase in cost, the demonstrators say that the actual data, on the contrary, indicate an average 10-15% decrease, including saving on servicing bank loans and administrative costs.

At the same time, the Energy Ministry’s allegations that Energoatom “permanently fails to fulfil financial plans, to carry out repairs to satisfy loan obligations from EBRD and Euratom” makes no sense since it is the Ministry which for months has sat on all the Company’s financial and strategic plans, making it impossible for Energoatom to implement any investment programme – from the integrated security programme funded by the EBRD and Euratom, to the completion of the Tashlyk PSP, which is critically needed to balance the unified energy system of Ukraine.

The protestors slam the so-called “reasons” for the dismissal of Nedashkovsky saying they were formed not as a result of analysis by the Ministry of the business activity of the company, but taken from unsubstantiated accusations of non-professional organisations and individuals. 

They say that the company has repeatedly submitted their objections and counter-arguments to the Ministry, which for unknown reasons have never been taken into account by the Ministry.

The protestors – all employees of NPP and other different units of Energoatom appealed to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky requesting him to restore Yuri Nedashkovsky in his post as President of Energoatom. At present there are no other competent experts at his level in Ukraine and the world, who can provide a sufficient level of nuclear and radiation safety for the operation of Ukraine’s Nuclear Power plants.

It remains to be seen whether Zelensky will call for a proper evaluation of the facts of the case. Surely no President truly serving Ukraine will countenance Orzhel’s closet destruction of Ukraine’s independent energy sector, and the handover of its control to Moscow?

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James Wilson

James Wilson

James Wilson is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to EU Today. He is a long term resident of Belgium, and has more than 30 years international experience in media, journalism and corporate communications and publishing.

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