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The claim was made by president of the Strategy XXI Centre for Global Studies Mikhail Gonchar in an interview with Ukrinform, Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reports.

The expert said a lawsuit of Gazprombank against Firtash demanding the immediate repayment of an $842.5 million loan is the beginning of a Russian scheme for the “gas starvation" of Ukraine.

He said Ukraine’s underground storage facilities contain about 5.7 billion cubic meters of gas pledged by Firtash as collateral for receiving a loan from the Russian bank.

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"According to official information of Ukrtransgaz, taking into account the volumes of gas consumption from underground gas storages since the beginning of the heating season, Ukraine will be able to meet the demands, with five billion cubic meters of gas to remain untouched in storage at the beginning of April," the expert said.

He said this did not suit the Kremlin, which hopes to disrupt gas supplies to the EU through Ukraine in January, thus reviving the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline project.

"Via an artificially created corporate conflict between Gazprombank and [Firtash’s] DF Group, Gazprom will implement a scenario aimed at seizing gas from Ukrainian underground storage facilities, thus putting Ukraine in a difficult situation in late January-early February during the winter peak," Gonchar said.

"The simple combination envisages the requirement regarding immediate repayment of the loan by Firtash. The latter is expected to refuse, allegedly because he does not have the necessary funds, but there is collateral - gas in underground storage facilities, which will have to be transferred to Gazprom,” the expert added.

He said the purpose of this plan is to demonstrate to Europe the "illegal" actions of Ukraine, and its unreliability as a partner in EU’s gas supply chain.

"It is easy to predict Russia’s steps. Amid its accusations against Ukraine, the Kremlin will offer the EU to ramp up "Nord Stream" to its full capacity to compensate for the partial suspension of transit through Ukraine, and resume the construction of the South Stream project,” Gonchar said.