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* Ukraine gas debt stands at $2.2 billion
MOSCOW, April 7 Ukraine has made no payments to
Gazprom despite a midnight (2000 GMT) deadline to
reduce its $2.2 billion debt for natural gas supplies, the
Russian gas producer said on Monday.
The Ukrainian government says Russia has increased the gas
price for Kiev for political reasons in a crisis over Moscow's
annexation of Crimea that has fuelled East-West tensions.
A Gazprom spokesman declined to say what action, if any, the
company would take if Kiev did not meet the deadline - which
falls on the seventh day of each month - for settling its
"There have been zero payments from Ukraine," he said.
Ukraine has missed deadlines in the past without punishment
but Gazprom has suggested it might ask Kiev to pay in advance
for gas if it does not meet the monthly deadline.
Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in price disputes in
the winters of 2005/2006 and 2008/2009, actions which also
disrupted supplies of Russian gas to Europe carried via Ukraine.
Gazprom last week increased the gas price for Ukraine by 80
percent, to $485 per 1,000 cubic metres while it charges
European clients $370-$380.
The move increases a squeeze on Ukraine's economy and puts
more pressure on the Kiev government following Russia's
annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine during the most
serious East-West rift since the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said last week
that the increase was unacceptable and warned that he expected
Russia to step up pressure by limiting supplies to Ukraine.
Russia meets 30 percent of Europe's total gas demand, while
a half of gas from Russia to the European Union goes via
Russian gas supplies to the EU and Turkey hit an all-time
high of 162 billion cubic metres last year, while first-quarter
exports edged up 2.4 percent as European customers have rushed
to buy gas from Gazprom in anticipation of possible cuts.
Analysts have said the crisis could drag on for some time,
probably until next winter.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jason Neely)