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If Ukraine doesn't pay off some of its debt for Russian-supplied
If Ukraine doesn't pay off some of its debt for Russian-supplied gas it will owe $3.2 billion by the end of the year, a co-owner of the Swiss gas trading firm RosUkrEnergo has warned.

"Ukraine will owe $3.2 billion as of January 1, 2009. It has paid just $1 billion, but now we hear that there is no money, there is nothing, and we don't know what to do," Dmitry Firtash told the Ukrainian Inter TV late on Sunday.

He predicted that Ukraine's national energy giant Naftogaz would face tough talks with the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom over Ukraine's "unprecedented" debt, the largest since 1995.

Gazprom said Naftogaz' debt for gas supplies in September, October and November totaled $2.4 billion. Ukraine said on Friday it had transferred $1 billion for the gas consumed in September and October.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Thursday Ukraine was not planning to repay its debt by the end of the year, a statement that provoked astonishment at Naftogaz.

Russia has suggested paying its gas transit fees in advance to Ukraine as part of a scheme to help the country pay off its debt for Russian-supplied gas. But Viktor Zubkov, Russia's first deputy prime minister and head of Gazprom's board of directors, accused Kiev of "an unconstructive position" on the issue.

Zubkov reaffirmed on Monday the Russian gas monopoly's commitment to its supply contracts with Europe, but said "Ukraine's current position ... could lead to disruptions in gas supplies to Europe."

A senior Ukrainian official said on Monday that the country would not siphon off gas destined for Europe if Gazprom cut off supplies.

"Ukraine will tap no gas after January 1," said Oleksandr Shlapak, the first deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential secretariat, said.

He also assured European Union consumers that they could rely on the transit of Russian gas to the EU market, saying there were 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the country's storage systems.

Under a March contract between Naftogaz and RosUkrEnergo, Naftogaz pays $179.5 for 1,000 cubic meters of Central Asian gas. Gazprom warned the gas price could rise to $400 next year.


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