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5 Mar, 2009 20:03

Ukraine pays gas debt after Putin’s warning

Ukraine’s Nagtogaz has paid its debt to Gazprom in full. The bill was for gas supplied in February. Earlier in the day PM Vladimir Putin said if Ukraine failed to compensate by March 7, the supply would be stopped.

“We've paid 100 per cent,” confirmed Valentin Zemlyansky, Naftogaz spokesman. Gazprom confirmed that it had received the money soon after his statement.

Ukraine consumed one billion cubic metres of Russian gas in February, worth US$ 360 million.

Naftogaz paid US$ 310 million on Wednesday and submitted the remaining US$ 50 million on Thursday.

Putin’s statement follows an armed raid on Naftogaz headquarters in Kiev on Wednesday.

“If as a result of the enforcement operations and the arrests of several officials the payment is not effected, it will result in the cut-off of the energy supply to our customers in Ukraine itself and, possibly, in Europe,” Putin warned.

He added: “The events certainly raise once again the issue of the reliability of this country in solving energy problems.”

Putin called on theUkrainian leadership to act according to “the strategic interest of our peoples and not the opportunistic considerations of the fight for money flows.”

“We view the events in Ukraine as their internal affairs only. At the same time we cannot help but notice the possible negative consequences for energy supplies for consumers in Ukraine as well as Europe,” he said.

According to the contract between Gazprom and Naftogaz, the Ukrainian party must pay for gas on a monthly basis. The next deadline falls on March 7, which is when payment of February’s bill is due.

On Wednesday, agents of Ukraine’s Security Service raided the headquarters of Naftogaz. They said they were investigating the alleged embezzlement of natural gas by the company. The company said its work had been paralysed.