MOSCOW, November 5 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine is far from paying off hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom despite several payments, a company spokesman said Tuesday.
“We have received several small installments for gas supplies in August, but it’s too early to speak about complete payment of the debt,” spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told the Prime news agency.
Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said last week that Kiev owed $882 million for supplies in August, raising fears of another politically tinged gas dispute.
Tensions between the countries are running high as Ukraine has repeatedly rejected Russia’s overtures to join a Moscow-led customs union and is due this month to sign a series of free-trade and association deals with the European Union – a step Russia has called “suicidal.”
Ukraine’s energy minister said Tuesday that his country’s state gas company, Naftogaz, had started paying off the debt, and that the installments would be “enough to settle this matter.”
Kiev and Moscow have a long history of disputes over natural gas supplies. Differences over gas prices in the winters of 2006 and 2009 led to Moscow temporarily halting deliveries to Ukraine and some European countries.