Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine as Kiev orders border secured

(Reuters) – Russia cut off gas to Ukraine on Monday in a dispute over unpaid bills that could disrupt supplies to the rest of Europe and set back hopes for peace between the former Soviet neighbours.

After the weekend loss of 49 troops when pro-Russian rebels shot down a military transport plane, Ukraine’s new president ordered his forces to retake full control of their border with Russia – saying this could then pave the way for negotiations.

Calling time on weeks of wrangling in talks over natural gas supplies, Russia said Kiev had missed a Monday morning deadline to repay $1.95 billion owed for previous purchases and announced Ukraine would now only get gas it has paid for in advance.

At the same time, Moscow insisted that Ukraine must let Russian gas flow across the country through international pipelines to Russia’s clients in the European Union – noting a temptation for Kiev to tap into those supplies in transit.

Kiev and Moscow blamed each other for the failure to agree on the price of future gas deliveries and refused to abandon well established positions: Russia offering a discount and Ukraine rejecting that as a tool for political manipulation.

“NOT ABOUT GAS”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia of deliberately blocking a deal to cause Kiev supply problems next winter, when temperatures plunge and heating needs increase.

“But it is not about gas. It is a general Russian plan to destroy Ukraine,” Yatseniuk said. “It is yet another step against the Ukrainian state and against Ukrainian independence.”

Medvedev said some of Kiev’s ruling elite were not up to the job, echoing outrage over Ukraine’s acting foreign minister using a coarse anatomical expression to describe President Vladimir Putin during the weekend embassy protest in Kiev.

“You can see this in many situations; from the paranoid behaviour of the acting foreign minister at the Russian embassy in Kiev to the failure of the prime minister of Ukraine to agree on gas on the basis of a discounted price,” he said on Facebook.

 

Full article: Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine as Kiev orders border secured (Reuters)

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