Russians support Kremlin in gas row with Ukraine

Russians in Moscow said on Thursday that Ukrainian officials were responsible of choking off Europe's gas supplies.

Russians support Kremlin in gas row with Ukraine

Russians in Moscow said on Thursday that Ukrainian officials were responsible of choking off Europe's gas supplies.

"They are gas thieves," said 24-year-old Olga, an employee with a state company, as she picked her way across an ice-covered street a short walk from the Kremlin.

The Kremlin and Russian gas firm Gazprom have said they had no choice but to cut gas supply to Ukraine -- which then flows to Europe -- because Kiev refused to agree a new supply contract.

In Europe, where many countries have been left without fuel for heating in the middle of winter, the gas row has revived memories of a similar conflict three years ago when Russia was accused of using gas as a weapon to bully its pro-Western neighbours.

But in Russia, where public opinion is coloured by television reports which frequently describe Ukraine's leaders as Western puppets, most people take a different view.

An Internet poll conducted by the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Thursday showed 56.6 percent of those who voted were against Russia re-opening gas supplies to Ukraine.

Sergei Tshebakov held Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko responsible for starting the row.

"Yushchenko works for the United States," said the 40-year-old, who was walking with his wife and two children. "He doesn't want to pay and he wants to damage Russia by making the European Union consider other energy suppliers."

Relations between ex-Soviet Ukraine and Russia have been strained since Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko led a peaceful "Orange Revolution" in 2005 that over-turned the pro-Russian elite.

Yushchenko wants Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union, to the annoyance of Russia which says the alliance's expansion eastwards could create a new Iron Curtain.

On Moscow's main shopping street, Lydia, 72, wore a thick fur coat to protect herself against the freezing winter.

"It's terrible. It's freezing cold in Romania and Bulgaria and they need the gas for heating in hospitals and schools," she said. "It's the fault of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko as they won't pay."

Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2009, 16:34
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