Russia has said it is halting its gas supplies to Ukraine, waiting for Kyiv to make more upfront payments. Energy giant Gazprom sees serious risks to secure gas transit to Europe via Ukraine this winter.
Russian state giant Gazprom on Wednesday said it had halted gas deliveries to Ukraine after Kyiv failed to make upfront payments for more supplies. Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said that as of 0700 GMT Ukraine's Naftogaz had used up all the gas it had paid for and "no new upfront payment had been made," adding that Kyiv's refusal to buy Russian gas posed "serious risks" to gas transits to Europe through Ukraine.
Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak had already announced the end of gas deliveries to Ukraine in a radio interview Tuesday, explaining that the move was required as Kyiv had not paid upfront for more deliveries.
Novak had complained that Ukrainian authorities were not doing enough to allow repair crews to restore power to Crimea, citing "some kind of political motivation" not to ease the plight of 938,000 residents there remaining without electricity, waiting for Russia to sent 300 mobile generators to the peninsula as an interim solution.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk responded Wednesday by announcing the government would prevent state energy firm Naftogaz from buying any more gas from Russia to reduce its energy dependence on Moscow.
Kiev would also ban Russian airlines from using Ukrainian airspace for any transit flights, Yatsenyuk told a government meeting. Ukraine has already ended direct passenger flights between the two countries.
Provocations on both sides
The tit-for-tat policies look likely to be continued on both sides. Moscow had warned a day earlier it could also halt coal delveries to Ukraine.
"Russia delivers coal to the Ukrainian energy sector," the Russian energy minister said. "We could - and maybe in this situation we need to - take a decision about halting supplies of coal by our commercial organizations, which deliver coal to Ukrainian power stations."
The threat pronounced by Russia's energy minister ushered in another round of tension between the two nations and was partly provoked by Kyiv a day earlier when the government came out in support of halting the movement of goods to Crimea.
The move came unexpectedly amid a relative lull in fighting in separatist eastern Ukraine.
tko/hg (AP, afp, Reuters)