KIEV/GORKI: Russia cut off gas to Ukraine yesterday in a dispute over unpaid bills that could disrupt supplies to the rest of Europe and set back hopes for peace between the former Soviet neighbours.
Calling time on weeks of wrangling in talks over natural gas supplies, Russia said Kiev had missed a Monday morning deadline to repay $1.95bn owed for previous purchases and announced Ukraine would now only get gas it has paid for in advance.
At the same time, Moscow insisted that Ukraine must let Russian gas flow across the country through international pipelines to Russia’s clients in the European Union — noting a temptation for Kiev to tap into those supplies in transit.
Kiev and Moscow blamed each other for the failure to agree on the price of future gas deliveries and refused to abandon well established positions: Russia offering a discount and Ukraine rejecting that as a tool for political manipulation.
“Thanks to the unconstructive position of the Ukrainian government, today a prepayment system was introduced,” Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Russian state exporter Gazprom, told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting at a government residence at Gorki, outside Moscow. He said Ukraine had “adopted a position that can only be called blackmail”, adding: “They wanted an ultra-low price.”
At a news conference, he said it would no longer be enough for Kiev to pay part of its debt for supply to resume. That would now happen only once Ukraine paid off all the almost $4.5bn and paid up-front for a month’s deliveries.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia of deliberately blocking a deal to cause Kiev supply problems next winter, when temperatures plunge and heating needs increase. “But it is not about gas. It is a general Russian plan to destroy Ukraine,” Yatseniuk said. Reuters