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Gas woes

November 2, 2009

Natural gas deliveries to Europe could be disrupted by a payment row between Moscow and Kiev, Russia's Vladimir Putin told the EU on Sunday. Ukraine is the most important land route for Russian gas into the West.

Gas pipelines
The potential gas row feels like deja-vu all over againImage: AP

In what seems to be a repeat of past payment disputes, Russia has warned the EU that natural gas deliveries to Europe could be threatened if Ukraine does to meet its payment commitments to Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Much of Russia's natural gas to Europe flows via Ukraine.

Late on Sunday, EU president Sweden said the country's prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about the risk that Ukraine could default on payments.

"Prime Minister Reinfeldt stated that both the Swedish and the Czech presidency had followed this issue closely and that we will continue to do so," a statement from Sweden said.

Russia's Interfax news agency, quoting Putin's press service said: "Putin drew the attention of the EU leadership to signals, including those received via official channels from Kiev, of possible problems with payments for Russian gas supplies."

It would not be the first time Russia has cut gas supplies to western Europe via Ukraine. It did so in January 2006 and again in January 2009, when a week-long row between Kiev and Moscow over alleged non-payment led to dramatic shortages in eastern and western Europe in the middle of winter.

Ukraine is currently in a deep economic crisis, which has raised fears about its ability to pay its gas bills.

On Friday, Putin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko, accusing that country's president, Viktor Yushchenko, of risking a new gas crisis in Europe.

Tymoshenko is Yushchenko's main political foe and the two will face each other in a presidential election on January 17. They have been engaged in a bitter political struggle.

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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