New Threat of Gas Cutoff to Ukraine

Gazprom threatened to cut supplies to Ukraine on Monday if an accord on the repayment of debt was not signed by next week, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Gazprom, the natural gas export monopoly, will reduce deliveries by 25 percent at 10 a.m. on Monday if Ukraine does not sign an agreement reached Feb. 12 on debt and future deliveries, spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.

"This can't go on any longer," Kupriyanov said in a statement. Ukraine has used 1.9 billion cubic meters of gas without paying for it, he said. "There has been no official response; the documents haven't been signed yet."

Ukraine, which gets 71 percent of its gas via Russia, averted Gazprom's previous threat to cut supplies from Feb. 12 when Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Vladimir Putin reached the still-unsigned agreement at the last moment.

Gazprom said at the time that Ukraine owed $1.5 billion for gas delivered since November, including $500 million for this year.

Yushchenko spoke to Putin on Tuesday about the debt, a statement on his web site said. The Ukrainian leader told his government to repay it in full "as soon as possible" and ordered Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to report by Wednesday morning, the statement said.

Ukraine will repay its debt to Russia for natural gas supplies by April 14, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchinov said Feb. 15. Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz said five days later that it had paid almost $280 million.

Putin said Ukraine would not meet the payment deadline because it was continuing to use gas without paying, according to Yushchenko's statement.