MOSCOW: Russia said yesterday new European Union sanctions will hinder efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and urged the West to persuade Kiev to hold discussions on the country’s future structure before a May 25 presidential election.
The results of self-rule referendums in the mainly Russian-speaking eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “should be a clear signal to Kiev of the depth of the crisis” in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Kremlin has stopped short of endorsing independence for the regions or their absorption into Russia but has said the referendums underscore the need for talks between the pro-Western government and separatists from the east.
“Moscow hopes ... the EU and United States will use their influence on the current leadership in Kiev so that issues of state structure and respect for the rights of regions are discussed soon - in any case before the election scheduled for May 25,” it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested the Ukrainian election, which the government hopes will increase its legitimacy and control, will not be legitimate if people in the east are not confident their rights will be protected.
The EU imposed sanctions on two Crimean companies and 13 people on Monday in response to Moscow’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for Russian-speaking separatists.
The EU had already imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48 Russians and Ukrainians, and the United States has also imposed sanctions during the worst crisis in relations between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the EU envoy to Russia on Tuesday that the EU sanctions were a “exhausted, trite approach ... that will not only not resolve but will deepen differences, hindering the joint search for a way out of the real crisis situation in Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said yesterday his government would take Russia to court unless it agreed to a gas supply contract based on market prices.
As tensions mount with Russia over its supply of gas to and through Ukraine onto Europe, Yatsenyuk said Kiev wanted Moscow to settle their differences by basing the contract on “market conditions.”
“If Russia rejects this, then we (will) bring Russia to court in Stockholm,” the Swedish capital where Russian gas giant Gazprom has taken Ukraine to the international arbitration court in previous disputes. “If I am not mistaken, they have 20 days left. This is the final call to Russia to sit at the negotiating table and find the solution,” he said.
Flanked by European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso after talks in Brussels, Yatsenyuk added that if Russia cut the price back to the fairer $286 — from the $485.5 per 1,000 cubic metres it charges now — then Ukraine “will urgently pay (its) gas bill arrears,” meeting a key Russian demand.
Gazprom said earlier yesterday that Ukraine had until June 2 to pay $1.6bn owing or Moscow would halt supplies. In addition, from June 3, Gazprom will only supply gas for which Ukraine has paid for up front.
Yatsenyuk also charged that after annexing Crimea in March, Russia has stolen “tens of hundreds of billions of dollars” in Ukrainian property. “They have stolen our fields; they have stolen our companies; they have stolen our onshore and offshore drills. We will see Russia in court,” he said.