Ukraine threatens to ‘confiscate’ European gas

Gazprom says it has received a letter from Ukraine's energy company Naftogaz saying Kiev could decide to confiscate gas in transit to Europe, if its supplies are cut off over unpaid gas bills this New year. Gazprom has denied it has received any kind of payment so far from Kiev.

The contract for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine expires on December 31, 2008 but under the agreement, supplies can be cut starting 10 am January 1, 2009.

The Russian gas giant says it has notified the Czech Government, set to become the new President of the EU on Thursday, about what it calls Ukraine’s blackmail.

“Such a position of Ukraine is nothing but blackmail. Russia, Gazprom and Eastern Europe are being threatened. I have already spoken to some of the European colleagues, including the Czech Republic’s ambassador, and informed them that we are dealing with a blatant case of blackmail,” Deputy Chairman of Gazprom’s Management Committee, Aleksandr Medvedev told journalists. “There is no rational explanation to this. It reminds me of an old Russian joke, that says: “dear neighbours - give me some water, please, though I’m so hungry, that I have no place to sleep.”

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