Putin Prods Ukraine on $1.3bn Gas Debt

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged more action to settle the issue of Ukraine’s debt for Russian gas, noting that what is owed should not cloud contact between the two nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

“About 7.7 billion cubic meters of Russian gas are being kept in Ukraine’s storage facilities, documents show,” Putin told Vladimir Litvin, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, after officials from fuel monopoly Gazprom returned from Ukraine. Putin was addressing Litvin in comments made at a meeting in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

“By European prices, this is $160 per 1,000 cubic meters, which makes up more than $1.3 billion. Of course, we are not asking for this debt to be paid immediately but experts should sort out the problem,” Putin said, quoted by Channel One television. “This should not overshadow our relations, though” the head-of-state said.

Underground tanks have been holding Gazprom fuel but Ukraine has been unable to say what has happened to it. Paperwork suggests it could not have been exported.

Russia’s Gazprom insists Ukrainian national oil and gas company Neftegaz should buy the supply at European prices, not at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters, the price at which Gazprom sells to Ukraine as payment for transit services across its territory. This year, Gazprom will send between 23 billion and 28 billion cubic meters of gas to its neighbor.

In related developments, Ukraine’s fuel and energy ministry and French firm Gaz de France signed a cooperation deal during Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Timoshenko’s visit to France. Among slated areas of cooperation are the construction of pipelines taking Iranian gas to Europe, storing French gas in Ukraine’s underground facilities and supplies from Gaz de France.

The two sides looked towards joint work in the Romanian market, where Gaz de France had bought pipelines, said Alexei Ivchenko, CEO of Neftegaz Ukrainy, and a French role in a Ukrainian gas consortium.

“We discussed the issue of the consortium with Gazprom, have a clear idea of what it should be like and are considering the activities of the consortium in the light of new projects, not necessarily in Ukraine,” Ivchenko added.

Source: Gateway to Russia