MOSCOW, November 11 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow will cut supplies if Kiev taps natural gas, the Russian prime minister said on Wednesday, pledging that gas deliveries will be uninterrupted if transiting countries honor their commitments.
"If they do not pay for gas consumed in Ukraine, they will not get it. If they don't get it, then gas is likely to be tapped from the pipeline. As soon as tapping is reported, we will cut supplies," Vladimir Putin said after talks in Moscow with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.
Speaking about Ukraine's ability to pay for Russian gas, Putin reiterated, referring to the International Monetary Fund, that Kiev did have financial capacities.
"The problem is...there is a presidential campaign, and as you know the prime minister and the president are in different election camps. They have their own political interests," Putin said.
He urged efforts to make sure that commitments are honored, including the transit of natural gas to Europe, without interfering in Ukrainian political processes.
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are rivals in a presidential election slated for January 17, 2010.
Putin said diversifying energy routes could discipline energy partners and transiting countries.
"We believe our energy supplies to major partners in Europe should be diversified. This will enhance stability and security. This will also discipline our partners in [energy] transit," the Russian premier said.
Russia is building the Nord Stream gas pipeline to pump gas under the Baltic Sea to Europe to reduce dependence on transiting countries. Ukraine transits around 80% of Russian gas bound for Europe.
Tymoshenko pledged on Wednesday Kiev would honor its commitments to supply Russian gas to Europe.
"We are taking extraordinary efforts to pay for natural gas, including for November, on time, without delay and in full," Tymoshenko said at a meeting with G8 ambassadors, adding that this was the result of an effective cooperation between the IMF and Ukraine.
She voiced the clear position of the Ukrainian government that it would be necessary to continue cooperation with the IMF and that "it will be extremely difficult to attain political stability in Ukraine and overcome the economic crisis without the fourth tranche from the IMF."
Last November, the IMF approved a $16.4 billion loan for Ukraine and issued the first tranche of $4.5 billion. It lent the ex-Soviet nation $2.8 billion and $3.3 billion in two tranches later. The fourth tranche of $3.8 billion is expected later in 2009.
"We can guarantee that... Ukraine will not in any circumstances break its commitments on [gas] transit to the European Union," the Ukrainian premier said.