Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned of "severe consequences" if Ukraine disrupts Russian gas supplies to the EU. Kiev had earlier threatened to divert energy transports if no new deal was signed with Gazprom.
AFP - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned Ukraine of "severe consequences" if Kiev disrupted the transit of Russian gas to European customers.
"If our partners say that they are not intending to fulfil the conditions of a contract signed previously then that means that they are intending to annul it," Putin told President Dmitry Medvedev in televised remarks.
"And this will be a completely different story with very severe consequences for the transit country, in my opinion. Not only in its relations with Russia, as the exporter, but also with consumers in EU countries."
Putin's uncompromising warning came after Russian energy giant Gazprom said Ukraine's state gas firm Naftogaz had threatened to divert gas supplies transitting Ukraine for delivery to Europe.
His comments came in a televised set-piece meeting with the president that is common in Russian politics, except here it appeared the prime minister was setting the tone in front of the head of state.
Putin did not say what the "severe consequences" would involve, but Gazprom has warned Ukraine its gas supplies will be cut off if a new contract is not signed by midnight (2100 GMT) on Wednesday.
Medvedev warned last week that Ukraine could even face sanctions against its wider economy if the country did not pay up to the "last ruble".
Putin said that Gazprom had showed generosity to Ukraine -- whose economy is is in severe crisis -- by offering it a price of only 250 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres of gas in 2009.
By contrast, Gazprom was paying 340 dollars per 1,000 cubic metres for the gas it bought from Central Asian countries, a rate more in line with world gas prices, he said.
"We understand that Ukraine is in a difficult economic situation. It is much more complicated than our own situation. Experts even think that the country is in a pre-default situation," he said.
He also poured scorn over the perpetual internal wrangling between Ukrainain President Viktor Yushchenko and his Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko which has left the country in political turmoil.
"As you unfortunately know the situation is getting worse in Ukraine, compounded by the fact that inter-clan fighting is having a negative effect on the economy."
For his part, Medvedev called on Ukraine's leaders to act quickly.
"There is only one thing we can recommend to our Ukrainian partners: Make a rational decision quickly and do not subject your own citizens to very major complications."
The Russian president had said last week that Ukraine's constant political infighting was "shameful to look at."
Date created : 2008-12-31