MOSCOW, April 10 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin called on European leaders to hold high-level talks to stabilize Ukraine’s economy in a letter sent to 18 heads of state on Thursday.
“We believe it is vital to hold, without delay, consultations at the level of ministers of economics, finance and energy, in order to work out concerted actions to stabilize Ukraine’s economy and to ensure the delivery and transit of Russian natural gas in accordance with the terms and conditions set down by contract,” the president said.
Putin stressed that the talks should start as soon as possible and there is no time to lose.
“It is towards this end that we appeal to our European partners,” the president said.
Putin also called on Russia’s European partners to participate in the effort to stabilize the Ukrainian economy on an equal basis, as a unilateral approach is not effective.
“It goes without saying that Russia is prepared to participate in the effort to stabilize and restore Ukraine’s economy. However, not in a unilateral way, but on equal terms with our European partners,” the Russian leader said.
“Only such an approach would be fair and balanced, and only such an approach can lead to success,” he added.
Putin stressed that Russia has stood alone for many years in shouldering significant investments, contributions and expenditures in support of Ukraine.
“However, Russia cannot and should not unilaterally bear the burden of supporting Ukraine’s economy by providing discounts and forgiving debts; and as point of fact, using these subsidies to cover Ukraine’s deficit in its trade with the EU member states,” the president said.
Debt owed by Ukraine’s state gas company Naftogaz for Russian gas deliveries has been mounting in recent months. At the end of last year, the debt stood at $1.45 billion, and in February it increased by $260 million and in March by $526 million, according to Putin.
As Kiev has failed to meet its debt repayments required by its contractual obligations, Russian gas prices for Ukraine were raised to $385 per thousand cubic meters, a 44 percent increase. At the beginning of April, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller ended the $100 discount Kiev enjoyed under the 2010 Kharkov Agreement, raising the price to $485 per thousand cubic meters.
“Here I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in March there was still a discount price applied, that is [the price was] $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. And even at that price, Ukraine did not pay a single dollar,” President Putin highlighted.
In such circumstances, Gazprom is compelled to switch over to prepayment for gas or cease deliveries altogether. “In other words, the volume of natural gas to be delivered to Ukraine will equal what was paid for one month in advance of delivery,” Putin said.
The president added that Russia’s European partners had unilaterally withdrawn from the concerted efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and even from holding consultations with Moscow.
The letter was sent to the heads of France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Macedonia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Turkey.