By John Helmer in Moscow
Following the weekend European Union (EU) summit meeting with Russia in Khabarovsk, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller warned yesterday in Moscow that if the Ukraine cannot pay the tab for past-due bills for gas, or for future deliveries for winter storage, and if the European Union won’t lend the money, Gazprom may cut off the supply once again.
Miller is reported Tuesday in a Moscow newspaper as acknowledging that Ukrainian payment delays are currently “very, very difficult”. He adds that Gazprom doubts that the Ukrainians can cover the arrears, or the cost of filling the gas storage. The costs were estimated during the EU session as between $4 billion and $5 billion.
If the arrears aren’t cleared, Miller said the supply agreement between Moscow and Kiev signed last in January provides for Gazprom to require new gas to be paid for ahead of delivery.
To European leaders, President Dmitry Medvedev said it was up to the EU to help the Ukrainians finance gas imports, if Brussels wants to resolve the conflict over gas movement. “There are no problems on our part,” Medvedev said. ” Let the one who pays for the gas offer assurances.” In parallel, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meeting Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said: “We have applied to the European Commission with this question [of providing financial support to Ukraine]. We got the answer through a minister of finance, ‘We have no money for Ukraine.’ ”