Gazprom receives Ukraine gas payment for May

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated Jun 8, 2009 at 7:01 AM CDT

Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Monday it had received Ukraine's May gas payment in full, after warnings that a missed payment by Kiev could lead to a new gas crisis.

"Yes, we got it," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told AFP. When asked how much had been received, he said: "As much as we needed, we received."

Ukrainian state gas firm Naftogaz said on Friday its gas bill for May was 647 million dollars (464 million euros) and that it had sent the payment in full.

Russia had warned repeatedly that crisis-battered Ukraine would have trouble paying its bills and that missed payments could lead to a repeat of the January gas crisis, which disrupted gas supplies to Europe amid a cold winter spell.

Kupriyanov said the current payment did not avert but merely postponed a new energy crisis, as Ukraine would "unlikely" be in a position to afford the next payment for June.

European officials expressed a similar opinion, with a source close to the the European Commission saying the payment was not "the end of the problem at all."

The EU commission is expected this week to send a fact-finding mission to Moscow and Kiev to shed light on their gas payment dispute.

Under pressure from Moscow, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Friday that he had no other choice but to pay the bill by ordering the printing of Ukrainian hryvnia.

"I would like everyone to know the price of these decisions," Yushchenko said in comments posted on his website.

The decision has raised fears that it will cause a further devaluation of the hryvnia, the country's currency, adding to the woes of Ukraine's already battered economy.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast that Ukraine's economy will contract eight percent overall this year, while the World Bank puts the downturn at nine percent.

Moscow has said it is not willing to bail out Ukraine on its own, urging the European Union to come up with a syndicated loan for Kiev.

The EU -- which receives one-quarter of its gas from Russia, most of it piped across Ukraine -- said it did not immediately have the money for the struggling ex-Soviet nation.

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