Independent directors at Ukraine’s Naftogaz resign in dispute with leadership – Interfax Ukraine

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KYIV — Three members of the independent supervisory board at the Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have resigned, citing a rumbling dispute with the current leadership, Interfax Ukraine quoted the directors as saying on Wednesday.

The board had previously resigned in May in protest of the abrupt sacking of Naftogaz’s then-chief executive, Andriy Kobolyev, but it later agreed to stay on.

The sacking of Kobolyev and the rapid installment of his successor, Yuriy Vitrenko, prompted concern from Ukraine’s Western backers about reforms and the transparency and integrity of the appointment process. Vitrenko said his appointment complied with the law despite calls by the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK) to annul the move.

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Naftogaz supervisory board head Clare Spottiswoode, who previously called for Vitrenko’s suspension, accused Vitrenko of not cooperating with the supervisory board, not answering their questions or sharing relevant documents.

“We simply cannot be effective in such circumstances, since we make some decisions, but they are not carried out,” Spottiswoode was quoted by Interfax Ukraine as saying.

Vitrenko’s office did not immediately comment.

Prime Minister Denys Shmygal had earlier said the government would announce a competition to elect three new independent directors to the supervisory board.

Separately, Shmygal said Ukraine has collected 18 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in its underground storages and plans to increase the reserves to up to 20 bcm by the start of the 2021/22 heating season in mid-October.

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Ukraine produces 65% of the gas it consumes and imports the rest from Europe.

The country used to buy gas from Russia but stopped in November 2015 after Kyiv’s relations with Moscow soured over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Kremlin’s support for separatists in the eastern Donbass region.

Vitrenko said last month additional volume of gas in reserves may be required to avoid shortages in winter due to problems with insufficient coal supply for thermal power generators.

Shmygal did not disclose the details of imports or the gas price at which Naftogaz will buy fuel.

In recent months, gas prices in Europe have reached record levels but Ukraine said the rise in prices was artificial and caused by a decrease in Russian gas supplies to Europe. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Matthias Williams in Kyiv Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Matthew Lewis)