VIENNA, June 24 (Reuters) - Russia’s top gas producer Gazprom on Tuesday stuck to its position that Ukraine has to pay it almost $2 billion in outstanding payments before Moscow will resume talks over new gas-supply terms.
Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission have held several rounds of fruitless talks to solve a dispute over Kiev’s gas debts and the price that Russia charges it for gas supplies.
Last week, Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, through which Russia exports roughly half of its gas to the European Union, after Kiev failed to meet a deadline to pay part of the $4 billion which Moscow says Ukraine owes it for gas.
“Ukraine has to pay off the debts, ... the outstanding debt for November and December is $1.451 billion. Ukraine also has to show progress (over a $500 million payment) for April-May,” Gazprom’s Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller told reporters in Vienna, where the state-controlled company finalised a deal to build a branch of its South Stream gas pipeline to Austria.
The EU objects to the South Stream project, which is designed to carry 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas to Europe via the bed of the Black Sea by 2019, saying it infringes its regulations requiring third-party access to pipeline infrastructure.
Europe is worried about its dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for around a third of EU imports, particularly after Russian-Ukrainian gas disputes in 2005 and 2009 led to supply disruptions. But the bloc has yet to come up with a realistic alternative.
Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Alexander Winning and Keiron Henderson