Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has threatened to cut off natural gas supplies to Europe and Ukraine on Saturday if Ukraine fails to pay for its gas deliveries by then.
The warning comes less than two months after the end of a harsh dispute between Moscow and Kiev that left much of Europe with severely reduced energy supplies for two weeks during a bitterly cold January. Ukraine’s Security Service launched a raid Wednesday on Naftogaz, the country’s state-run gas company, searching for documents related to the deal that ended the conflict with Russia, a spokesman for the company said. Putin issued his threat at a meeting of the Russian cabinet, which was shown on television. The problems earlier this year began as a bilateral dispute between Russia and Ukraine over domestic gas shipments but grew to affect much of Europe when, on January 7, all Russian gas supplies through Ukraine were cut off. Russia is a major supplier of natural gas to more than a dozen European countries, and Ukraine is a major transit country for that gas. The two countries each blamed the other for the shut-off. After back-and-forth diplomacy and at least one failed agreement, the two sides signed a 10-year-deal to end the dispute and resume gas shipments to Europe.
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Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Putin said at the time they hoped the gas crisis would never be repeated. Putin said the new agreement would “provide long-term, stable and reliable gas deliveries.” The European Union had expressed frustration as the impasse dragged on and warned Russia and Ukraine that the problems called into question their reliability as energy partners. And the problems caused many countries to reexamine their sources of energy and dependence — in some cases total — on Russia as a provider.