How a Revolt Started in the Poltava Region Over the Price of Gas

No sooner had the government raised gas prices for Ukrainians, than gas revolts began to start in the country.

The first one happened in Lubny, Poltava region. There, on January 4th, for several hours, the highway of national importance M-03, which connects Kiev and Kharkov, was blocked.

Together with the residents of the town and surrounding areas, hundreds of drivers stuck in multi-kilometre traffic jams involuntarily went on strike against sky-high prices.

People came out against the rise in prices by the gas distribution company, whose prices were approved by Kiev.

What is happening in Lubny

At the end of December, mass protests started in Lubny, Pyryatyn and Grebenka, as well as Orzhitsa in the Poltava region. They were held at the office of “Lubnygaz” and local administrations.

Then people on December 28th briefly blocked the Kiev-Kharkov highway.

The reason was that residents of the Poltava region received astronomical gas bills. Not only have the tariffs for gas delivery there doubled (from 1.5 to 3 hryvnia per cubic meter), but also 299 extra cubic meters of gas have been added.

Some residents say that their price for gas transportation has risen from 200 to 600 hryvnias – i.e., even threefold.

After mass rallies at “Lubnygaz”, they admitted that they counted extra cubic meters due to a technical error. Invoices for natural gas distribution services received from 20th to 25th December 2020 have been recalled. They promised to send new ones on January 4th-6th, 2021.

However, judging by what was sent, the issue still remained for the rest of the rise in prices. And on Monday the situation only worsened.

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Residents of Lubny and surrounding villages again blocked the Kiev-Kharkov highway on January 4th. Several hundred people began to walk back and forth along the pedestrian crossing, after which a 20-kilometre traffic jam formed on the road in both directions of the road.

This was already a much more serious action than the preparatory one on December 28th. It lasted several hours. In addition to the pretensions to payments, complaints that “Lubnygaz” unreasonably cuts off consumers from the supply, and also rudely communicates with people at the level of its administration and representatives, were also voiced.

“People do not have jobs, and on the 7th they are still going to quarantine. They don’t go to work – how will they pay for gas?” say indignant locals.

“I have a pension of 2200 hryvnias. I received a payment card for the gas pipes – 800 hryvnias. This transportation is not included in the subsidy,” explains Lubny resident Lyudmila. According to her, citizens are forced to pay for gas workers, who receive huge salaries by local standards – 15,000-20,000 a month.

“Kobolev (the head of Naftogaz) fattens himself, and we are being taken to the cleaners! This situation can snowball all over Ukraine,” the protesters say. They demanded the return of all prices to the pre-January level.

There were also political demands to return the gas distribution networks to the ownership of the community. This was naturally supported by the local mayor.

How gas prices were inflated in January

The situation in Lubny may indeed be the first alarm bell for the government, which has sharply raised gas tariffs since January.

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We have already said that in January 2021, gas tariffs for the population will break a historical record. The price tag was raised by gas suppliers across the country.

The price of “Naftogaz” was raised by almost a hryvnia – up to 7.22 hryvnia per cubic meter. The price of the branches of “Enera” in Sumy, Chernigov, Vinnytsia and other cities was increased by 1.6 hryvnia (up to 8.82 hryvnias per cubic meter),. A record January price – 10 hryvnias 80 kopecks – was set by “Lvovenergosbyt”.

But delivery has become especially expensive. The transportation tariffs approved by the National Commission for State Regulation of Energy for gas distribution companies provide for an increase in the price of this service by 6-110%. “Lubnygaz” was at the top of this list with a 101% increase in price.

For comparison, the delivery rate for “Kievoblgaz” was increased by almost 80% (up to 1.74 hryvnia per cubic meter), for “Kirovogradgaz” – by 84.6% (up to 1.92 hryvnia per cubic meter), for “Ternopolgaz” – by 110% (up to 2.6 hryvnia per cubic meter), for “Khersongaz” – by 78.4% (up to 2.5 hryvnias), etc.

Collectively, the increase in the tariff for both gas and its delivery at once gives a record price tag – an average of 9-10 hryvnias per cubic meter. This will hit the pockets of private sector residents very hard, for whom gas is not only cooking or heating water, but also heating.

The Ukrainian “Strana” news agency has already calculated that in this case, the winter overpayment will be about 800-900 hryvnias. As we can see, it was such sums that brought residents of Poltava region to the protest action.

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In second place after Lubny is Ternopol, where gas delivery has risen in price 2.3-fold, to 2.34 hryvnias per cubic meter. I.e., in fact, the agricultural areas of the country, where the private sector prevails, were hit.

Gas workers explained the need to increase tariffs by increasing the price of gas, the cost of repairing networks and increasing the minimum wage. The National Commission for State Regulation of Energy agreed with these arguments, which approved the draft resolutions on new tariffs.

But, as we can see, the population does not approve of them. And the first sprouts of this process began in Lubny.

Viktoriya Venk

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