MOSCOW May 9 Russia will require Ukraine to pay
in advance for gas starting from June, Energy Minister Alexander
Novak said late on Thursday, after Kiev failed to pay for gas
Gazprom said on Wednesday that Ukraine's payments for gas
supply in April had fallen due and that nothing had been paid,
raising Kiev's total debt for Russian gas to $3.51 billion.
"According to contract... failure of obligations
automatically leads to a switch to prepayment for gas deliveries
for Ukraine starting from June 1," Novak said in a statement
late on Thursday.
Russia had threatened to cut gas supplies to Ukraine in June
if it receives no prepayment by the end of May. Gazprom supplies
about 30 percent of the gas consumed in Europe, shipping about
half of that via Ukraine.
Russia's Energy Ministry added that Gazprom would send a
preliminary bill for June before May 16 and will ship gas in
volumes reflecting payments received before May 31.
The Kremlin has often used its energy dominance as a tool of
foreign policy, cutting off supplies to Ukraine and Europe in
2005 and 2009 after price disputes with an earlier pro-Western
government in what became known as the "gas wars".
Ukraine desperately wants to change the conditions of a 2009
contract, negotiated by an earlier pro-Western government, which
locked Kiev into buying a set volume whether it needed it or not
at $485 per 1,000 cubic metres - the highest price in Europe.
Moscow dropped the price to $268.5 when ousted President
Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on a trade and association
agreement with the European Union but re-instated the original
price after the uprising in Ukraine.
"Russia can't and should no long carry the burden of support
of Ukraine's economy alone, giving it discounts on the gas price
and forgiving debts, in fact covering the deficit in Ukraine's
trade," Novak said in a statement.
This week, Ukraine received a first tranche worth about $3.2
billion from a $17 billion two-year aid programme from the
International Monetary Fund, which Moscow hopes Kiev will use to
cover gas debt.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova, editing by Nigel Stephenson)