Russia cuts off natural gas sales to Ukraine in a price dispute

Published: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 7:07 p.m.
Russia's natural gas monopoly halted sales to Ukraine in a price dispute Sunday and began reducing pressure in transmission lines that also carry substantial supplies to western Europe.
Ukraine's natural gas company Naftogaz acknowledged the reduction by Russia's Gazprom.
"Gas is not flowing at all through some transit routes, which can lead to a fall in pressure in all the pipelines and limit the overall supply of gas to Ukraine and Europe," said Naftogaz spokesman Eduard Zaniuk.
However, he said, "for the people and municipal services there will be enough gas."
Gazprom had given Ukraine a deadline of midnight Saturday to agree to pay quadruple the amount it previously paid for Russian gas, which accounts for about a third of the consumption in the country of 48 million people.
The showdown has underlined the tensions between the two former Soviet republics since Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko - a West-leaning leader who wants to reduce Moscow's clout in his country - defeated a Russian-backed rival in a bitter electoral battle a year ago.
The gas crisis comes as Ukraine prepares for parliamentary elections in March, in which Yushchenko's bloc faces a strong challenge from the party of Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the presidential ballot after mass street protests forced a revote.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Ukrainian authorities "consciously decided to ruin the talks process with the Russian side and to use the gas problem almost to create the image of an enemy with the goal of manipulating the internal political situation."

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