Putin Orders Further Cuts In Gas Pumped Via Ukraine

NOVO OGAREVO, Russia -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered gas giant Gazprom immediately to cut gas pumped via Ukraine to Europe in response to Ukraine's alleged siphoning from pipelines.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"Start reducing it from today," Putin told Alexei Miller after the Gazprom chief informed him of a plan to cut volumes of natural gas shipped through Ukraine by amounts equivalent to those Moscow has accused Ukraine of stealing.

Russia cut its gas supply to Ukraine's domestic market on January 1 and has since accused Ukraine of illegally removing gas transiting its country for clients further downstream in Europe, a charge Ukraine has denied.

Miller told Putin that Ukraine had since January 1 "stolen" 65.3 million cubic metres of gas that were supposed to have flowed through pipelines that cross its territory on to customers in the European Union.

The Gazprom chief vowed that the state-run monopoly "will do everything we can" to compensate for the reduction of gas shipped through Ukraine by increasing volumes pumped through Belarus, Poland and Turkey.

But he warned that, in addition to reducing Ukraine pipeline volumes by the amount Russia claims the country has removed, Gazprom would continue to cut gas pumped through Ukraine on a daily basis by amounts it considered stolen.

Referring to the debt Gazprom says it is owed by Ukraine, Miller said it was still above 600 million dollars, but added: "If they continue to illegally take gas it will soon be billions."

Source: AFP