KIEV, March 4 – In the latest development of a rapidly escalating dispute, Russian gas giant Gazprom cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine by an additional 25% late Tuesday, bringing the total supply reduction to about half since Monday, when the Russian company started restricting supplies.
The dispute has been increasingly turning into a major confrontation between Ukraine and Russia that could affect steady gas supplies to the European Union.
President Viktor Yushchenko, citing spreading gas supply disruption fears within the EU, urged Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko late Tuesday to immediately restart talks with Gazprom.
“This situation causes deep concerns within the EU,” Yushchenko said in the letter released by his press service. “The only realistic way out is an immediate restart of the talks.”
Before sending the letter, Yushchenko called Dmitri Medvedev, Russia’s next president. Medvedev, who is also the chairman of Gazprom, won the controversial election by landslide on Sunday, and is expected to get sworn in as the Russian president in two months.
Yushchenko’s call to Medvedev comes a day after the Ukrainian president has called Russia’s incumbent president Vladimir Putin seeking to prevent the escalation.
Meanwhile, Tymoshenko has so far been reluctant to restart the talks with Gazprom, while the government has instead opted to choose a tough line in the dispute. Naftogaz warned Tuesday it may start using Russia’s Europe-bound gas if Gazprom’s supply restrictions persist.
Tymoshenko is due to travel to Belgium on Wednesday for a two-day international conference entitled “Women: Stabilizing a dangerous world,” according to the government.
At the conference, Tymoshenko is scheduled to meet Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, and other leaders, the government said.
A spokesman at Naftogaz Ukrayiny said Tuesday that the company will send a team for talks in Moscow before the end of the week, but had refused to be more specific. (tl/ez)