U.S. accuses Russia of using energy as a means of intimidation against Ukraine and Europe.
WASHINGTON – U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki has condemed Russia for threateing to cut-off gas supplies to Ukraine over the country's unpaid bill, following Russian President Vladimir Putin's letter to 18 leaders of European countries that import Russian gas expressing concerns over Ukraine’s increasing debt to Russia.
“Russia is using energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine,” said Psaki Thursday, adding that the U.S. is taking steps to supply Ukraine with technical and financial support and is urging European countries to provide natural gas supplies to Ukraine.
On April 1, Alexei Miller, chief executive of Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas supplier, announced a price increase of US$117 to US$385.5 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas to Ukraine and said it had not paid any of its US$1.7 billion debt. This followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's orders regarding the terminations of a number of Russian-Ukrainian agreements including one that gave Ukraine discounts on gas prices in return for Russia's lease on the port of Sevastopol where its Black Sea Fleet is stationed.
Ukraine’s government called the decision ‘a declaration of economic war,’ and has refused to pay its debt or the adhere to the price hike.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that Ukraine’s gas debt will hit US$16.6 billion in April.
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