MOSCOW, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- It's too early to declare a thaw in the natural gas relationship between Russia and Ukraine, a spokesman from Russian gas company Gazprom said.
Alexei Miller, chief executive officer at Gazprom, said last week Ukraine has more than $880 million in unsettled debt from its August natural gas bills. Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesman, said Kiev has a long way to go before settling its obligations.
"We have received several small installments for gas supplies in August, but it's too early to speak about complete payment of the debt," he was quoted by Russia's state-backed news agency RIA Novosti as saying Tuesday.
A debt row in 2009 prompted Russia to cut gas supplies to Ukraine. That decision left downstream European consumers in the cold for weeks because most of their Russian gas supplies run through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government said it was becoming less reliant on Russian natural gas. President Viktor Yanukovych said a $10 billion shale natural gas deal signed Tuesday with U.S. energy company Chevron would make his country energy independent by 2020.