Russia punches back

Russia increased the gas price for Ukraine for the second time in just three days to push prices up by 80 percent, piling the pressure on an economy already on the brink of bankruptcy. Ukraine, which has a new International Monetary Fund loan package to cushion some of the blow, dismissed the increase as politically motivated, saying the price was too high and that it should not have to pay for supplies at this level.

Moscow has used energy as a political weapon in the past when dealing with its neighbours, and European customers are concerned Russia might again cut off deliveries in the worst East-West stand-off since the Cold War over Crimea.

The head of Russia’s top natural gas producer, Gazprom, Alexei Miller, told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday that the price increase was due to the introduction of an export duty on gas.

“The gas price is increasing automatically from April,” Miller said.
The latest rise will be to $485 per 1 000 cubic metres — two days after Gazprom announced a 44 percent hike in the gas price to $385,5 per 1 000 cubic metres from $268,5 due to unpaid bills.

Ukraine, which covers 50 percent of its gas needs with Russian supplies, condemned the move as politically motivated.
“The Ukrainian economy should not pay such a price for gas. It is a political price,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Yury Prodan told reporters in Kiev.
Valery Nesterov, an analyst with Russian investment bank Sberbank CIB, said Ukraine could apply to an international court for a settlement. — Moscow Times.

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