Amid 'gas war' talk, Russia reassures Europe on supply

# 11 April 2014 22:11 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to ease European fears of gas supply cuts on Friday after Brussels said it would stand with the new authorities in Kiev if the Kremlin carries out a threat to turn off the tap to Ukraine, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Russia, which last month angered Western powers by annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, has raised the price it charges Kiev for gas and said it owes Moscow $2.2 billion in unpaid bills.

That has raised the specter of previous "gas wars", when rows between the two former Soviet states led to problems with onward supplies to western Europe. A repeat of that scenario could hurt Russia as well as EU customers for its gas because Moscow depends for its public revenues on selling gas in Europe.

"I want to say again: We do not intend and do not plan to shut off the gas for Ukraine," Putin said in televised comments at a meeting of his advisory Security Council. "We guarantee fulfilment of all our obligations to our European consumers."

The stand-off, precipitated by the overthrow of the Moscow-backed Ukrainian president after he rejected closer ties to the European Union, has brought Russia's relations with the West to their most fraught since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

After Russian troops took over Crimea last month, officials with the NATO military alliance said Moscow was massing forces on the border with mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, possibly as a prelude to seizing more parts of the country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied on Friday that this was the Kremlin's intention.

"We cannot have such a desire. It contradicts the core interests of the Russian Federation. We want Ukraine to be whole within its current borders, but whole with full respect for the regions," state-run RIA news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

The Kremlin intervened in Crimea after President Viktor Yanukovich was pushed out following weeks of protests in the capital that turned bloody in mid-February. He was replaced by a government that wants close ties with the West, but which Moscow says is illegitimate and discriminates against Russian-speakers.

Russia's chief prosecutor said on Friday Moscow would not extradite Yanukovich, whom he called Ukraine's "legitimate president", to face murder charges over protesters' deaths.

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