Oil and Gas

Russia alleges Ukraine gas blackmail, Kiev denies

MOSCOW, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Russia accused Ukraine of blackmail on Wednesday, saying Kiev had threatened to seize Russian transit gas to Europe if it fails to reach a new gas deal with Moscow, but Kiev denied plans to disrupt transit.

Sergei Kupriyanov, spokesman for Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom, said in a statement the company had received a letter from the Ukrainian authorities which threatened to confiscate Russian transit gas after Jan.1.

“We are talking here about a distortion and violation of the previously signed agreement on gas transit to Europe and a blackmail of the Russian Federation and other countries,” Kupriyanov said.

In Ukraine, President Viktor Yushchenko’s First Deputy Chief of Staff Oleksander Shlapak denied any such plan. “Ukraine guarantees the technical, secure, reliable and uninterrutped transportation of Russian natural gas to European countries through its territory,” he said. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Sabina Zawadzki; editing by Christian Lowe)