Medvedev urges government to continue gas talks with Ukraine
Warns about sanctions
President Dmitry Medvedev instructed the government to speed up talks with Ukraine and the European Union (EU) on Kyiv`s payments for Russian gas, Xinhua reported.
"Contacts with the European partners, with Brussels, with the country holding the European Union`s presidency and with Ukraine must be continued," Medvedev told Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who is responsible for energy issues.
This is not a problem of Russia and Ukraine alone, but a problem involving gas deliveries to European countries, Medvedev said.
He urged Ukraine to pay its gas bill in line with the January agreement and warned that sanctions would be introduced if it failed to meet the deadline.
The Russian president ordered the government "to make all required efforts to minimize these negative consequences and, if possible, to help Ukraine, which is experiencing serious cash problems today."
Medvedev, however, said Russia would not do this unilaterally, echoing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin`s remarks that the International Monetary Fund should come to Ukraine`s aid.
Also on Wednesday, Putin, who is on a visit to Finland, warned of a possible halt in Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine in late June or early July due to Kiev`s payment problems.
Russia cut off gas shipments to Ukraine in January over disputes on pricing and transition fees, leaving more than a dozen European nations without heating gas in the depths of winter for nearly two weeks.
Russia supplies a quarter of EU`s gas needs, with 80 percent of it pumped through Ukrainian pipelines.