Vladimir Putin Accuses Ukraine For Sabotaging Gas Talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine on Wednesday of forcing gas talks into a "dead end" by rejecting the offer of a cut in duty to resolve a price dispute that threatens supplies not just to Ukraine but to the rest of Europe, according to The Associated Press.
Talks ended with Kiev demanding contract changes to bring down the highest prices in Europe for Russian gas supplies, and Moscow suggesting its proposed cut of about one-fifth to around $385 per 1,000 cubic metres was its final offer, the AP reported.
Further negotiations could take place by phone before Monday, when Moscow has threatened to halt supplies, according to the AP.
The dispute is part of a broader stand-off between Ukraine and its former Soviet master, as Kiev's new West-leaning leadership struggles to contain a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in its eastern provinces, the AP reported.
Arguments over how much Russia charges for its gas have rumbled on for years and led to supply cut-offs in 2006 and 2009, according to the AP.
Putin, meeting his government outside Moscow, said Russia had offered a discount of $100 per 1,000 cubic metres by removing an export duty, the AP reported. That would roughly bring it in line with the price paid by other European consumers.
"The reduction is too little for our Ukrainian partners; they want more, although it's not clear on what basis," he said, according to the AP. "If this is the case, then it seems that the issue is being driven into a dead end."
The latest crisis flared with the overthrow of Ukraine's Moscow-leaning president Viktor Yanukovich in February, after which Moscow annexed its neighbour's Crimea region and nearly doubled the price Kiev has to pay for gas, the AP reported.
Russian gas exporter Gazprom had been charging a preferential rate as part of Moscow's effort to keep Ukraine from drifting into the orbit of the European Union, according to the AP.