MOSCOW, April 17 Gazprom said on
Thursday its decision on whether to demand upfront payments from
Ukraine for natural gas deliveries would depend on how European
leaders respond to a letter sent by Russian President Vladimir
Putin last week.
Gazprom says it is owed more than $2 billion for gas already
delivered to Ukraine and is considering insisting on advance
payment for further supplies.
Such a move could increase the risk of Russia cutting off
supply, which would affect not only Ukraine but European nations
that receive their gas via Ukraine.
Putin has sent a letter to the leaders of 18 European
countries that buy Russian gas warning that deliveries could be
disrupted if state-controlled Gazprom cut supplies to Ukraine
and calling for urgent talks to seek a solution.
Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region has set off
the most serious East-West rift since the end of the Cold War.
"First of all, we would look at the reaction of European
Union and other countries where Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin)
sent his letter. This is one of the issues which should be taken
into account," Gazprom Chairman Viktor Zubkov told reporters.
"Then we would take the final decision."
Russia supplies 30 percent of Europe's total gas needs and
pipes around half of the gas it sends to the EU via Ukraine.
(Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin;
editing by Jason Neely)