Russia cuts gas supply to Ukraine as tensions soar

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MOSCOW — Rus­sia on Mon­day halted nat­u­ral gas de­liv­er­ies to Ukraine, spurn­ing Ukraine’s of­fer to pay some of its mul­ti­bil­lion-dol­lar gas debt and de­mand­ing up­front pay­ments for fu­ture sup­plies.

The de­ci­sion, com­ing amid deep ten­sions over east­ern Ukraine, pro­voked strong words from both sides but does not im­me­di­ately af­fect the cru­cial flow of Rus­sian gas to Europe. Ukraine has enough re­serves to last un­til Decem­ber, ac­cord­ing to the head of its state gas com­pany, Naf­to­gaz.

Still, the Rus­sian move could dis­rupt Europe’s long-term en­ergy sup­plies if the is­sue is not re­solved, an­a­lysts said. Pre­vi­ous gas dis­putes left Ukraine and some Balkan na­tions shiv­er­ing for nearly two weeks in the dead of win­ter.

The gas con­flict is part of a wider dis­pute over whether Ukraine aligns it­self with Rus­sia or with the 28-na­tion Euro­pean Union and comes amid a cri­sis in re­la­tions fol­low­ing Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimean Pen­in­sula in March. Ukraine ac­cuses Rus­sia of sup­port­ing an armed sep­a­rat­ist in­sur­gency in its east­ern re­gions, which Rus­sia de­nies.

Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent, mean­while, said Mon­day that he will pro­pose a de­tailed peace plan this week that in­cludes a cease-fire with the sep­a­rat­ist reb­els. But be­fore that hap­pens, the armed forces must se­cure con­trol over Ukraine’s po­rous bor­der with Rus­sia, Pres­i­dent Petro Porosh­enko said at a meet­ing of his na­tional se­cu­rity coun­cil. “As soon as the bor­der is closed, we can im­me­di­ately de­clare a cease-fire,” he said. “De­clar­ing a cease-fire while the bor­der is open would be ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from the sep­a­rat­ists to Mr. Porosh­enko’s com­ments.

Ukraine, one of the most en­ergy-in­ef­fi­cient coun­tries in Europe, has been chron­i­cally be­hind on pay­ments for the Rus­sian nat­u­ral gas needed to heat its homes and fuel its in­dus­tries.

In ad­di­tion, Rus­sia had been giv­ing its neigh­bor cut-rate sweet­heart deals on gas for var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, a prac­tice that came to a halt April 1.

Rus­sia had de­manded $1.95 bil­lion by Mon­day for past-due bills. At talks over the week­end in Kiev, Ukraine was ready to ac­cept a com­pro­mise of pay­ing $1 bil­lion now and more later, but Rus­sia re­jected the of­fer, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion said.

Ser­gei Kupriyanov, spokes­man for Rus­sian gas gi­ant Gaz­prom, said that since Ukraine had missed the dead­line, from now on it will have to pay in ad­vance for en­ergy. Yet that’s a nearly im­pos­sible de­mand for the cash-strapped na­tion, which is fight­ing an in­sur­gency and in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­bly bil­lions lost to cor­rup­tion un­der its for­mer pro-Rus­sian pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanuk­ov­ych.

Rus­sia has of­fered a fu­ture price of $385, the price that Ukraine was pay­ing un­til Decem­ber, but Kiev has in­sisted on a lower price. Mr. Miller scoffed at that de­mand, say­ing it was sig­nifi­cantly be­low Euro­pean mar­ket prices.

Russia - Eastern Europe - Europe - Ukraine - European Union - Moscow - European Commission - Viktor Yanukovych - Kiev - Ukraine government - Arseniy Yatsenyuk - Alexei Miller - Crimea - Petro Poroshenko


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