Gazprom sees threat in Ukrainian economy

April 16, 2009 at 2:15 PM

MOSCOW, April 16 (UPI) -- The negative foreign trade balance in the natural gas sector between Ukraine and Russia amid a sagging economy is a threat to Moscow, Gazprom officials said.

Gazprom deputy chief Valery Golubev said the current economic climate presents major challenges to Ukraine in terms of its contractual obligations on gas purchases from Russia, the Ukrainian Independent Information Agency reports.

Golubev said Ukraine has purchased 40 percent less gas than in previous years and added that the shortfall may prompt Moscow to correct the trade balance.

Kiev and Moscow entered into a bitter dispute in January over gas contracts and outstanding debts. The terms of that contract called on Ukraine to purchase 70 billion cubic feet of gas in March, but the Ukrainian Naftogaz purchased less than half of that.

"Considering the reduction of such a significant volume of gas ... we have to correct the gas balance, exploration plans, as well as transportation plans," Golubev said.

Business daily Kommersant Ukraina cited anonymous sources Monday who said Gazprom notified Naftogaz last week it would impose fines because of the shortfall. Naftogaz, however, denied those claims, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested he would waive the fines considering the current economic crisis.

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