Russia's Gazprom says wants to avert Ukraine gas crisis

by Reuters
Thursday, 13 March 2014 15:33 GMT

BERLIN, March 13 (Reuters) - Russia's Gazprom said it wanted Ukraine to be able to pay for gas supplies and did not want a "gas crisis" over prices and debt, a allusion to past disputes that led to cuts in gas flows from Russia to Europe.

The state-controlled company's chief executive, Alexei Miller, told reporters in Berlin that Ukraine owed more than $1.8 billion in unpaid bills, which was threatening Gazprom's ability to make investments and pay dividends, including to foreign shareholders.

Last week, Miller hinted that Gazprom could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills, which could lead to reductions in supplies to Europe.

"The unpaid gas bills mean a hole for Gazprom in its investments for the current year. They also mean a hole in our budget plan and a hole in the payment of dividends to our shareholders," Miller said.

"Among our private shareholders are a large number of foreigners. And these are also their revenues and dividends."

The message appeared to be that Western states, which have imposed sanctions on Russia and are threatening more measures over its seizure of control of Ukraine's Crimea region, risked hurting themselves if they did not work with Moscow to end the East-West standoff in a way that Russia can accept.

Gazprom has ratcheted up pressure on Ukraine over the past month, saying it would scrap a gas price discount starting from April 1 after pro-Moscow Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich fled the country after a popular uprising.

In 2013, Gazprom supplied the European Union and Turkey with 162 billion cubic metres of gas, a historic record, of which 86 bcm went via Ukraine.

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