Putin warns Europe of gas shortages over Ukraine debts

 

Could Russia turn off the taps? The BBC's Daniel Sandford reports

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned European leaders that Ukraine's delays in paying for Russian gas have created a "critical situation".

Pipelines transiting Ukraine deliver Russian gas to several EU countries and there are fears that the current tensions could trigger gas shortages.

Pro-Russian separatists are holed up in official buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a European human rights body has stripped Russia of voting rights.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitors human rights in 47 member states, including Russia and Ukraine.

Protesting against Russia's annexation of Crimea last month, PACE suspended Russia's voting rights as well as Russian participation in election observer missions.

The Russian delegation had boycotted the meeting. Its leader, Alexei Pushkov, described the proceedings as a "farce".

Pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk. 10 April 2014 Activists inside the Donetsk government building have proclaimed a "Donetsk Republic"

Russian state gas giant Gazprom says Ukraine's debt for supplies of Russian gas has risen above $2bn (£1.2bn; 1.4bn euros).

Gazprom said on Wednesday it could demand advance payments from Kiev for gas but President Putin said the company should hold off, pending talks with "our partners" - widely believed to mean the EU.

In a letter to European leaders, President Putin warned that the "critical" situation could affect deliveries of gas to Europe, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The letter released by the Kremlin says that if Ukraine does not settle its energy bill, Gazprom will be "compelled" to switch over to advance payment, and if those payments are not made, it "will completely or partially cease gas deliveries".

Mr Putin adds that Russia was "prepared to participate in the effort to stabilise and restore Ukraine's economy" but only on "equal terms" with the EU.

And he says that while Russia has been subsidising the Ukrainian economy with cheap gas, Europe has been exploiting its raw materials and worsening its trade deficit.

The US state department later said it condemned "Russia's efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine".

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the price Ukraine was being charged for its gas was "well above the average price paid by EU members".

Nearly a third of the EU's natural gas comes from Russia.

Previous Russian gas disputes with Ukraine have led to severe gas shortages in several EU countries. The EU says it has extra gas supplies and reverse-flow technology to deal with any such disruption now.

Buildings occupied

In Kiev, the authorities said Ukraine would not prosecute pro-Russian activists occupying official buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk if they surrendered their weapons.

The separatists in the east - a mainly Russian-speaking region with close ties to Russia - are demanding referendums on self-rule. In Donetsk they have declared a "people's republic". Gunmen have been seen among the protesters in Luhansk.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stirring up the unrest, a claim Moscow denies.

Meanwhile, Nato has unveiled satellite images it says show some 40,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border in late March and early April, along with tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and aircraft.

British Brigadier Gary Deakin, speaking at Nato military headquarters in Belgium, said it was a force that was "very capable, at high readiness, and... close to routes and lines of communication".

A Russian military officer said the images dated from August last year and denied there had been a build-up of troops along the border, Russia's Ria Novosti news agency reported.

Satellite image taken 22 March 2014, and provided by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) on 9 April 2014, shows what is purported to be a Russian military airborne or Spetznaz (Special Forces) brigade at Yeysk, near the Sea of Azov in southern Russia Several satellite images have been released by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe of the Russia/Ukraine border areas. This photo, which Nato says was taken on 22 March, appears to show Russia's elite Spetsnaz forces stationed at Yeysk in southern Russia, near the border
Satellite image taken 27 March 2014, and provided by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) on 9 April 2014, shows what is purported to be a Russian artillery battalion at a military base near Novocherkassk, east of the Sea of Azov in southern Russia. This image purports to show a Russian artillery battalion at a military base near Nonocherkassk, east of the Sea of Azov in southern Russia
Satellite image taken 27 March 2014, and provided by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) on 9 April 2014, shows what are purported to be Russian military tanks and vehicles at a military base near Kuzminka, east of the Sea of Azov in southern Russia. This apparently shows Russian tanks at a base near Kuzminka on 27 March

Ukraine fears that the Russian separatist actions are a provocation similar to the protests that gripped Crimea days before Russian troops annexed the peninsula last month. Russia denies the claim.

President Putin said on Thursday his decision to annex Crimea was taken after secret opinion polls and had not been planned in advance.

Speaking to political supporters near Moscow, he said the first poll showed 80% of the Crimean population wanted to join Russia. He said he had not made any decision until it was "clear what the mood of the people was".

Russia, the US, Ukraine and the EU are to hold talks in Geneva next Thursday to try to resolve the impasse, EU diplomats have said.

They will be the first four-way talks since the crisis began.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone on Wednesday that the meeting should focus on fostering dialogue among Ukrainians and not on bilateral relations among the participants.

In another development, the Kremlin announced that President Putin had sacked 14 generals. They were sacked from the emergencies ministry and prison service, as well as regional branches of the interior ministry and the Investigative Committee (Russia's equivalent of the FBI).

It was not immediately clear if the move was a routine step. Russia has some 800 generals in its army alone.

BBC map of cities in eastern Ukraine
 

More on This Story

Ukraine crisis

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1111.

    Boyers 1100
    You should stand for Ukrainian Presidential election,I'm sure the EU/US would sponsor you, you seem to advocate their thinking. May I suggest You have a word with Ms Nuland Im sure she will use her influence to assist you. Sashka Biley could be your running mate,oh sorry he shot himself,not to worry I'm sure they can arrange for another thug for the roll

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1110.

    1104.

    You're cynical. From what I could see there were no guns pointed at anyone. Where's your photographic proof? Call me cynical but the West seems to find democratic voting illegal when it restores the USSR and is happy to endorse right wing thugs in ski masks with clubs smashing their way into government buildings as democratic when it's dismantling the USSR. And we have plenty of evidence.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1109.

    "1083.Angel-Alice
    13 Minutes ago
    The US sends another war ship to Russia's Black Sea coast"

    It will be interesting to see if the ship has an explosion and a clearly labelled piece of Russian hardware will be seen hanging from the ship so that the NATO articles can be invoked for war just like the USS Liberty.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1108.

    Putin is only doing this in retaliation to Obama closing McDonalds in Crimea.
    No seriously, the west needs to put its money where its mouth is and having backed the Coup in the Ukraine, it now needs to bail the country out to stop the Ukraine falling in to civil war.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1107.

    381.
    andy43
    ===============

    Swap Russia for N Korea or any other nation involved in warmongering news of late. You wouldn't be singing the same tune, would you???

  • Comment number 1106.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1105.

    1070 Alex

    "I guess you must have missed the hundreds of hours of media footage"

    Not missed it but treated it with the scepticism it deserves.

    After all we all saw the satellite pictures of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction,chemical factories (one of which turned out to be an aspirin factory), Libya's, Sudan's etc.

    They never show the ones in, say, the US, Israel et al

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1104.

    Re 1087

    "So if the poll in Crimea was conducted fairly and reflects the will of the people is it not a double standard to say they must remain part of the Ukraine"?

    Hey, call me cynical, but I think the tens of thousands of Russian troops, occupying the entire Crimea during the Referendum, may have swayed the result?

    Swaying the will of the people with a Kalashnikov is not free or fair.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1103.

    Nobody can expect that Russia pays 38 billion $ from 2009 in different subsidies to Ukraine and not to be interested for political processes there. Russia delivers gas completely according to contract signed by Julia Timoshenko and after approved different discounts and benefits to support Ukrainian economy. Cheapest gas with price of 238 $ per 1K m3 has been delivered to Ukraine, but not paid.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1102.

    @1097 Scott0962

    1) Russia had no problem signing a pact with the Nazis to divide Poland between them.

    We don't continue to hold "the war" against the Germans or the many European nations that allied themselves with the Nazi's at the time so why would we now bring up 70 year old history against the Russians?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1101.

    Farage actually said he doesn't like Putin, in the same sentence? Keep up at the back.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 1100.

    You begin to see why UKIP and that pathetic idiot Farage supports Putin - both are fascists. It is time to terminate UKIP and their ridiculour policies - according to Farage Putin is his hero - he is nothing less than a criminal, doing what Russia always did - bullying other nations and invading sovereign land. To hell with Rissia and to hell with that monster Putin.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1099.

    I am in the southern eastern part of the EU next week. It will be fascinating to hear what the people there think of Putler's antics (as opposed to what the Russians believe).

    I suspect they will want Ukraine, Moldova & Georgia to be fast tracked into NATO.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1098.

    Ukraine refuses to pay even twice discounted price for gas. It prefer to still from transit for EU and blame Russia., who does just business, no politics.
    But strategic goal of EU action is to press Ukraine to hold the payment thus force Russia to cut gas supply, then later convince all Europeans :Look Russia starts energy war with EU!!!!'. This is European modern policy.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1097.

    re. 1015.Angel-Alice
    1) Russia had no problem signing a pact with the Nazis to divide Poland between them.
    2) No, Putin didn't send troops to Crimea, those masked, armed men in uniform without insignia were bandits and hooligans.
    3) That "fair referendum", illegal under international law, was monitored by observors hand picked by the Kremlin to read Moscow's script.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1096.

    Alex King

    "I guess you must have missed the hundreds of hours of media footage showing blah blah"

    No, I watched it, maybe you didn't.

    Remember that clip of Ben Brown pointing to an old man with a vintage rifle and commenting: " .. and these Russian soldiers, sporting sophisticated firearms, claim to be civilians.." ha! ha!

    So, once again, provide your evidence AND answer my earlier question.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1095.

    1068
    Good evening Margaret.just wait till wee Sannie gets in he will sort out those Eton nancy boys LOL
    Bandela Rosa

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1094.

    The core problem is reliance on 19th century energy sources in the 21st century. The future is nuclear fission + renewables, and then conversion from uranium to thorium as fission fuel. That gets us a few hundred years easily, during which time fusion will become commercially viable.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1093.

    Thatcher created the energy problems we see today. Putin is no worse than the Americans who i am amazed did not destroy the world many times over in the past.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1092.

    We closed our coal mines and now have no mines.

    We shut our nuclear and now have no technology.

    We sold our own oil and blew the cash.

    So now we need Saudi for oil and Russia for gas. A Islamic theocracy that thinks it is the Caliphate back and a clapped out superpower run by a Stalin wanna be.

    How long do we want to depend on a pair of unhinged dictatorships.

 

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