Russia's Gazprom says can exempt rebel-held areas from Ukraine gas contract
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
A worker of Russian gas and oil giant Gazprom works on February 18, 2015 in Novoprtovskoye oil and gas condensates oilfield. AFP PhotoKremlin-controlled Gazprom said on Feb. 26 it would exempt gas supplies to rebel-held regions from its main contract with Ukrainian Naftogaz, days before Kiev uses up gas volumes it has already paid for.
"We are ready at the moment to exclude our gas supplies to Donbass from our discussions (with Ukraine)," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told the Rossiya-24 TV channel.
He also said Ukraine had prepaid for Russian gas until the end of the week.
Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have accused each other of not sticking to agreements on gas supplies.
The dispute flared up last week when Gazprom said it started direct gas supplies to the regions of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Moscow rebels.
Kupriyanov did not explain what the exclusion would mean for Naftogaz. Kyiv has said it was unable to control gas flows to east Ukraine and pay for it. It has earlier accused Gazprom of reducing gas supplies to Ukraine.
When asked if Russia in theory would be ready to supply gas to east Ukraine free of charge, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "I can not speak of supplies now. But of course, these issues would be urgently considered if needed."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would halt gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not receive advance payment, raising the possibility of onward deliveries to Europe being disrupted for the fourth time in a decade.
Europe received around 147 billion cubic metres of Russian gas last year - or around a third of its total needs - with roughly 40 percent shipped via Ukraine.
The Gazprom spokesman said that Ukraine had only 206 million cubic metres left for which Kyiv had already paid.
"With the current level of supplies, prepayments will be enough only up till the end of the week. If Kyiv doesn't make new payments, we, naturally, won't be able to continue supplying Ukraine with gas," he said.