Ukraine sticks Russia with massive gas bill

22nd January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine on Friday stepped up its economic warfare with Russia by demanding a mult-billion-dollar payment from the Gazprom gas giant for allegedly underpaying Kiev for its fuel transits to European states.

The gesture is largely symbolic because Russia has dismissed similar Ukrainian claims.

But it underscores the severe tensions between the two uneasy neighbours and potentially complicates the resolution of a litany of existing trade disputes.

The westward-leaning former Soviet country's Anti-Monopoly Committee said Gazprom had two months to pay 86 billion hryvnias ($3.5 billion / 3.2 billion euros) for abusing the "monopoly status" it enjoys on gas shipments that pass through Ukraine.

The committee's deputy chief Mariya Nyzhnyk said the sum represented 30 percent of the price for natural gas that passed through the country from Russia over the past five years.

"Another complication is that these violations are continuing today," Ukrainian media quoted Nyzhnyk as saying.

There was no immediate response from either Russian officials or Gazprom.

Ukrainian pipelines account for about 15 percent of all gas imported by the European Union -- its members reliant on Russia for about a third if their outside supplies.

Some of Gazprom's European clients saw their deliveries limited in 2006 and 2010 when the state-run firm - long accused of raising the rates of neighbours who seek closer ties to the West - halted supplies to Ukraine over price disputes.

Kiev's announcement came just three days after Gazprom itself demanded the payment of a previously-undisclosed $2.55 billion bill for the July to September period of 2015.

Ukraine has been weening itself off Russian energy imports and purchased almost no gas from its eastern neighbour in the period mentioned by Gazprom.

But the Russian firm said the sum it was after fell under the take-or-pay scheme that requires clients to reimburse Gazprom for any contracted gas they failed to purchase in a specific timeframe.

Russia's latest charge brings to nearly $32 billion the amount it claims is due by Kiev.

Ukraine's Naftogaz state energy company is itself seeking nearly $26 billion from Gazprom in a Stockholm arbitration court.

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© 2016 AFP

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