Kiev urges Russia not to use natural gas as a "weapon"
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has urged Russia not to use natural gas as a "weapon" against his country, and accused Moscow of seizing tens of billions of dollars' worth of its assets and energy resources in Crimea.
Russian energy giant Gazprom earlier demanded a $1.66 billion pre-payment from Kiev for June gas deliveries, saying Ukraine had only half its requirements in storage to ensure a trouble-free winter.
"We are ready for a market-based approach and Russia is to stop using natural gas as another, or a new type of Russian weapon," Yatseniuk told a news conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.
Ukraine wants to change the conditions of a 2009 contract that locked Kiev into buying a set volume of gas, whether it needs it or not, at $485 per 1,000 cubic metres - the highest price paid by any client in Europe.
Moscow dropped the price to $268.5 after then-President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on a trade and association agreement with the European Union last year, but reinstated the original price after he was ousted in February.
Kiev has so far refused to pay the higher price, saying gas is being used as a political tool by Moscow to punish Ukraine's new leaders for moving closer to the EU.