Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has issued a fresh warning to Ukraine over its alleged siphoning of gas from pipelines bound for Europe. Last winter Moscow cut gas supplies to the continent for two weeks in a dispute with Kiev.
AFP - Russia will cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev siphons off gas from pipelines bound for Europe without paying for it, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday.
"If they don't pay, they don't receive. If they don't receive, then most likely there will be removal from the export pipeline, and as soon as removal begins, we will cut supplies," Putin said.
Putin has warned repeatedly in recent weeks that Ukraine, which has been badly hit by the global economic crisis, could have trouble paying its gas bills to Moscow.
"I am very much counting on our main transit partner, Ukraine, to fulfill all its contractual obligations," Putin said at a joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.
Putin said he and Faymann had agreed to push ahead with a Russian-Austrian agreement paving the way for South Stream, a Moscow-backed pipeline that would deliver Russian gas to southeast Europe while bypassing Ukraine.
South Stream would help "discipline" Ukraine and other countries that transit Russian gas, Putin said.
"The diversification of our hydrocarbon deliveries will raise their stability and reliability. Among other things this will discipline our transit partners," the Russian premier said.
In January a bitter price dispute between the two ex-Soviet neighbours led to a cut-off of Russian gas supplies to more than a dozen countries in Europe for around two weeks.
Russia provides around a quarter of the European Union's gas supplies, some 80 percent of which is shipped through pipelines in Ukraine.
During the winter gas crisis, Moscow said it was forced to reduce supplies of gas bound for Europe because Ukraine was siphoning gas illegally, an allegation that Kiev denied.
Since then Putin has called on the EU to help Ukraine pay its gas bills, saying last week that Brussels should "open its wallet."
The latest gas tensions between Moscow and Kiev come as Ukraine prepares to hold a presidential election in January in which candidates friendly to Russia are seeking to replace pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.
Date created : 2009-11-11