KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych warned Thursday that the state-owned gas company Naftogaz is on the verge of bankruptcy, blaming earlier bad management.
Yanukovych said that Naftogaz could lose about $1.5 billion this year.
"As a result of extraordinary financial obligations and a year-and-a-half of criminal management, this company appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy," Yanukovych said during his Cabinet meeting.
Naftogaz is the state-owned company responsible for supplying Ukraine's residential and industrial consumers with gas.
Company officials were not immediately available for a comment.
Ukraine saw a nearly twofold increase in the price of gas imports in January after a bitter dispute with its main supplier Russia.
The countries reached a deal under which Ukraine would receive all of its imported natural gas from a little-known intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo, that is owned jointly by Gazprom and two Ukrainian businessmen.
As part of the deal, Naftogaz and RosukrEnergo created a joint venture to sell gas to Ukraine's industrial consumers; earlier, this market belonged to Naftogaz.
Yanukovych's party won the most votes in March parliamentary elections, and Yushchenko last month gave in to pressure to submit his nomination as premier to the legislature, which approved it.
Naftogaz previously was headed by an ally of Yushchenko, but the company's head resigned before Yanukovych became premier.