World Bulletin/News Desk
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded acidly to U.S. comments about a proposal he sent to European leaders seeking talks about Ukraine's gas debt and supplies, saying "it is not good to read other people's letters".
In a letter to 18 European leaders on Thursday, Putin said Russian gas supplies to Europe could be disrupted if Moscow cuts the flow to Ukraine over unpaid bills, drawing a U.S. accusation that Russia is using energy as a "tool of coercion".
President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would fulfill its obligations to European gas clients and had no plans to halt deliveries to Ukraine although Moscow could make Kiev pay in advance for deliveries.
Putin's remarks appeared aimed at easing concerns in Europe but keeping pressure on Ukraine to pay its $2.2 billion debt for Russian gas and blaming Kiev for any disruptions in supplies across its territory to European consumers.
But he added that his government had proposed demanding payment in advance from Ukraine for future supplies.
"We guarantee fulfillment of all our obligations to our European consumers. The question is not about us. The question is about providing transit across Ukraine," he said, suggesting Ukraine might seek to siphon the gas meant for Europe if Russia reduced supplies meant for Ukrainian consumption.
Putin's spokesman said earlier on Friday that the European nations had not yet responded to the letter, which prompted the United States to accuse Russia of using energy as a "tool of coercion" amid the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.Last Mod: 11 Nisan 2014, 17:40