Barroso says help for Kiev 'difficult, if not impossible'
EU doubts it can help Ukraine pay for Russian gas
The European Union is unlikely to be able to help Ukraine pay Russia for billions of dollars worth of Russian gas, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday, Reuters reported.
Barely four months after a pricing dispute between the two ex-Soviet states in January that disrupted supplies to Europe, Moscow last week rejected a Ukrainian proposal to defer payment on up to $5 billion in gas storage fees. Russia, backed by Italy, has urged the EU to help Ukraine.
"Prime Minister Putin called me to tell me about the difficulties he anticipates in payments coming from Ukraine (and) to say that Ukraine has asked for some support for financing of these payments," Barroso told reporters.
"It is difficult with our budget, if not impossible, to have some support from the Community budget for Ukraine," he noted, adding that he had promised Putin he would raise the matter with EU leaders who are due to hold a June 18-19 summit in Brussels.
But he stressed it was mainly a problem between Ukraine and Russia.
Europe receives about a fifth of its gas from Russia via Ukraine, with some eastern and southern European countries almost completely dependent on that gas.
Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) this week said it was concerned Ukraine would not pay for this month`s gas supplies in full. It said it would have to move to 100 percent advance payments if there were any disruptions.
Gazprom says it wants to store extra gas in Ukraine during winter to be able to respond more quickly to the needs of its customers in Europe.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he would put to the EU summit a Russian proposal that Europe bear some of the costs that Ukraine is unable to meet.