Russian president Vladimir Putin said at a press conference on Wednesday that Russian gas giant Gazprom will suspend gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev fails to provide an advance payment in around three or four days.
"We hope that gas supplies will not be interrupted,” Putin said. “But this does not depend only on us, it depends on the financial discipline of our Ukrainian partners."
Europe imported around 147 billion cubic meters of Russian gas last year, about a third of its total need. Around 40 percent of that gas passes through Ukrainian territories.
On Tuesday, officials from Gazprom told Ukraine’s state-owned gas company Naftogaz that it needed to provide up-front payments on for the March deliveries. Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller said Naftogaz needs to pay on time because it takes time for the deposit to register in a Gazprom account.
“That's why a delivery to Ukraine of 114 million cubic meters will lead to a complete termination of Russian gas supplies as early as in two days, which creates serious risks for the transit to Europe,” Miller said.
Putin also accused Naftogaz of purposefully turning off gas supplies to the eastern regions of Ukraine on Feb. 19.
“Just imagine that these people may be left without gas supply during the winter period,” Putin said.
Ukrainian officials said they shut down gas supply to eastern Ukraine due to a damaged pipeline. Naftogaz added they mended the pipeline that day and will not pay Gazprom for the gas supplied on Feb. 19.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said while Gazprom has not officially decided to shut off supplies, he hopes Moscow and Kiev can come to an agreement that would not lead to a gas shortage in Europe.
"We are counting on a new prepayment for Russian gas being made on time. There should be no break in gas supplies to European customers," Novak said in a statement.