Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom have been threatening Ukraine and Europe’s gas supply since March, but now Putin said “Ukrainian radicals” could endanger the gas supplies.
“We are seriously concerned about statements by Ukrainian radicals, their direct threats to interrupt the transit of gas. We hope that common sense somehow prevails there,” Putin told a gathering of international oil and gas executives.
He did not specify the statements or which radicals said them. Ukraine’s presidential election is Sunday, and Putin said he will work with the new Ukrainian president.
Europe receives 30% of their gas from Russia, and the majority of the pipelines run through Ukraine. Gazprom told Ukraine the gas will be shut off if a $3.5 billion gas debt is not paid by June 3. Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Russia has not received a dime. On April 10, Putin threatened to hold Europe’s gas hostage if the EU did not help Ukraine pay back their overall $17 billion debt to Russia.
Gazprom erased the discount given to Ukraine in December and raised the price to $383.50 per 1,000 cubic meter from $268.50. CEO Alexei Miller, who has so far escaped sanctions by the West, said the debt supported the increase.
“The December discount for gas cannot be applied any more,” Miller said, adding that the transportation tariff for Gazprom’s gas to Europe via Ukraine was increasing by 10 percent, in line with earlier agreements.
But Russia and Gazprom did not make these threats until the Ukrainian parliament ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. Protests in Kiev erupted after he chose a $15 billion bailout from Russia over a trade deal with the EU.