BRUSSELS, May 13 (UPI) -- Ukraine can use recently-acquired European Union financial assistance to pay its debt to purchase natural gas from Russia.
"This (the funding) is support for the Ukrainian budget with a view to make the necessary payments in the energy sector," said Simon O'Connor, spokesman for the European commission on economic and monetary affairs, on Tuesday. The first installment of financial aid was sent to Ukraine just days before Gazprom, the Russian energy company, informed Naftogaz, the Ukrainian national oil and gas company, it would halt deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine if a $3.5 billion past due payment was not received by June 3.
Ukraine has not provided a payment for Russian gas for two months, protesting a sudden hike in its gas costs on Apr. 1, when Russia eliminated two major and relied-upon discounts, from $268.50 per thousand cubic meters to $485 per thousand cubic meters.
A Ukrainian delegation will discuss gas prices this week in Brussels with EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger, and will sign an agreement for another 1 billion Euros ($1.37 billion) in aid from the EU.