VIENNA (Reuters) - European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger is working on a plan to help Ukraine pay some of its gas bills to Russia, he told Austria’s ORF radio on Friday, saying there was “no reason to panic” about Russian gas supplies to Europe.
“We are in close contact with Ukraine and its gas company to ensure that Ukraine remains able to pay and the debts that the gas company has to Gazprom do not rise further,” he said, adding he would meet Ukraine’s energy and foreign ministers on Monday.
“I am preparing a solution that is part of the aid package that the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank is giving to Ukraine and from which payment for open bills will be possible.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday in a letter to leaders of 18 European countries that Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe.
Oettinger advised against taking the threat at face vale, saying Russia wanted to deliver gas and needed the revenue.
“Part of the bills is justified. Another part is unjustified. We will put together a package in the weeks ahead so that paying the justified open bills will be possible, but not according to Mr Putin’s accounting but rather by what is contractually correct,” he said.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Williams and David Evans