MOSCOW, December 5 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine owes Russia some $2 billion for gas supplies and no plan is in place to settle the debt, the head of Russia’s Gazprom said Wednesday.
Alexei Miller, chief executive of state-owned Gazprom, said it was in discussions with Ukraine’s national energy company Naftogaz to find a solution.
“We are seeking variants to resolve the problem, we are holding talks, but no agreements have been reached as of now,” he told journalists.
His comments came a day after Naftogaz announced that it had reached a deal with Gazprom to defer payments for winter fuel deliveries until spring next year. Naftogaz head Yevhen Bakulin said that his company had secured an agreement to delay settling debts for gas imported from October to December.
Ukrainian officials had said earlier that the two sides had reached a compromise over a new payment schedule, although they gave no details. Russian officials had said that possible deferral of payments was being examined.
The gas negotiations between Moscow and Kiev are taking place against the backdrop of political unrest in Ukraine. Thousands of people are taking part in street demonstrations in the capital to demand the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and the government for their failure to sign an association agreement strengthening political and trade links with the European Union.
Ukrainian officials and the EU have accused Russia of putting pressure on Kiev not to sign the agreement. Moscow has vehemently denied using trade embargoes and gas deliveries as a form of intimidation against Ukraine, saying it is only taking measures to protect its own economy.
Gazprom complained in October that Ukraine had not settled an $882 million bill for natural gas for August and warned that it could begin demanding advance payment for fuel deliveries in future. That prompted Ukraine to declare that it would stop buying Russian gas until the end of the year, only for Kiev to back down later.
Gas conflicts between Moscow and Kiev have affected deliveries to Western Europe in the past, most seriously during January 2006 and January 2009 when supplies were completely halted for a time in disputes over payment.