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Russia's Gazprom threatens new Ukraine gas cut

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Russia's Gazprom threatens new Ukraine gas cut
Gazprom headquarters, Moscow

Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom on Tuesday threatened to reduce supplies to neighbouring Ukraine if the two countries do not end a dispute over debt by Monday.”If all the necessary documents are not signed, then because of non-payment for gas, supplies to Ukrainian consumers will be cut from March 3 at 10:00 am (0700 GMT) by 25 percent,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on state television.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko ordered his prime minister to resolve the latest crisis, the product of a dispute that has prompted expressions of concern from the European Union.

Yushchenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reached a deal at the Kremlin earlier this month to resolve a row over huge gas debts claimed by Gazprom. The preliminary agreement averted an earlier threatened gas cut-off.

However, negotiations on the details became bogged down, also prompting tensions within Ukraine’s fragile pro-Western ruling coalition.

Yushchenko on Tuesday ordered Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to “take urgent and exhaustive measures to pay Ukraine’s debt for gas consumed.”

“The government must fulfill all the high-level agreements,” the president said in a statement on his website.

Kupriyanov told Interfax news agency that Gazprom was ready to close the deal, “but so far there has been no answer, the documents have not been signed. In the meantime, undocumented consumption of Russian gas continues because about 1.9 billion cubic metres of Russian gas have been received by Ukraine.”

The dispute has raised concern in European capitals as it echoes a gas pricing row in 2006 that led to disruptions across Europe after Gazprom cut supplies to Ukraine, the main transit route to the European Union.

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