KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian justice minister said he hopes a state energy company avoids litigation over a $7 billion bill from Russia's Gazprom for unused natural gas.
Gazprom this week sent state energy company Naftogaz a $7 billion bill for natural gas it didn't import last year under a "take-or-pay" contractual agreement.
Ukrainian Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych has said he hopes the issue can be resolved amicably.
"This matter needs thorough analysis in the legal dispute, if both parties are interested in this," he was quoted by Interfax-Ukraine as saying. "But I hope that the Russian gas company and Naftogaz will find a way to avoid such a dispute."
Gazprom in 2006 and 2009 cut natural gas supplies through Ukraine in response to contractual disputes. Those rows left downstream European consumers in the cold as most of the Russian gas bound for their region runs through Ukraine's transit system.
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted on charges she abused her authority when she helped break the 2009 impasse. Ukraine's current government has issued repeated objections about the terms of that deal.
Ukraine has looked to reserves like shale natural gas to break Russia's grip on the energy sector.