Russia said Ukraine’s natural gas debt climbed to almost $2 billion and signaled supplies may be cut, ratcheting up pressure on its neighbor as they scrap over the future of the Black Sea Crimea region.
Ukraine hasn’t made its February fuel payment and owes Russia $1.89 billion, according to gas export monopoly OAO Gazprom (OGZD), which halted supplies to Ukraine five years ago amid a pricing and debt dispute, curbing flows to Europe. Lawmakers in Moscow said they’d accept the results of a March 16 referendum on Crimea joining Russia as Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s premier, reiterated that his cabinet deems the vote illegal.
“We can’t supply gas for free,” Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said in the statement. “Either Ukraine pays off its debt and pays for current deliveries or there’s a risk of a return to the situation we saw at the start of 2009.”
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