Russia's Gazprom says could sue Ukraine over gas debt
Gazprom has prepared documents
Gazprom has prepared documents to take legal action against Ukraine over its unpaid gas debt, a senior official at the Russian energy giant said, adding a compromise would be the better option, RIA Novosti reported.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said last week Ukraine`s gas debt stood at $2.4 billion, and talks with Kiev have shown no progress. The Russian president also stressed the importance of receiving full payment for gas supplies given the financial pressure on Russia due to the credit crunch and falling oil prices.
Speaking on the sidelines of the APEC forum in the Peruvian capital, Alexander Medvedev, first deputy chairman of Gazprom`s management board, said the company could lodge a suit with an international court without going into any detail.
"We have developed an unpleasant tradition of seeing in the New Year at the negotiation table with colleagues from Ukraine," Medvedev said referring to previous gas disputes. "This year, however, we are hoping for better things."
The Gazprom executive`s statement echoes President Dmitry Medvedev`s remarks in Lima that Russia could seek to retrieve payment from Ukrainian buyers for Russian-supplied gas through the courts.
Ukraine`s fuel and energy minister said on Monday the country had not received notification from Gazprom about any legal action.
"Reports have said today that a lawsuit will be filed, but we have received no formal documents [confirming the suit]," Yuriy Prodan said.
Prodan admitted "problems" in gas relations, but said they were "current transactions."
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko earlier denied the country owed anything to Gazprom, blaming a complicated supply scheme and urged a switchover to direct supplies.
Medvedev also said in Lima that Gazprom would not negotiate a new gas contract with Ukraine until it had paid off its debt for supplied gas. "A new agreement on gas supplies to Ukraine can only be discussed once the debt for supplied gas has been paid," the executive said.
In mid-February, Russia and Ukraine agreed to remove intermediaries from their gas deals, which Kyiv had blamed for the accumulation of its debt, but the countries are still to agree on a pricing formula.
Miller said earlier the price of gas that Gazprom sells to Ukraine could rise to over $400 per 1,000 cubic meters as of the start of next year, from the current $179.5.
The gas pricing row between the former Soviet allies at the start of 2006 led to a brief cut in supplies to Ukraine, which also transits about 80% of Russia`s Europe-bound gas. Some consumers in Europe reported a decline in supplies.
Miller moved to allay European consumers` concerns this year. In an interview with German media on Monday, he said the debt dispute with Ukraine would not influence supplies to Europe.
"Such fears are groundless," he said. "Irrespective of the results of gas talks with Ukraine, Gazprom guarantees reliable supplies to its European customers. We will fulfill all our export obligations."