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 Putin Urges West to Help Ukraine Pay for Russian Gas

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a plea to the European Union and United States on Friday, asking them to help cash-strapped Ukraine raise funds to pay for Russian gas purchases and warning about escalation of the gas crisis.

He also said he hoped a deal would be reached next week with Ukraine to end a long-running dispute in which Moscow has halted natural gas supplies to Kyiv, part of the row at the heart of deepest East-West rift since the Cold War, Censor.NET reports citing Reuters.

The Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers are expected to hold more talks with the European Commission in Brussels next week on the dispute over Ukraine's unpaid bills and the price Kyiv pays for its gas.

Read also: Russia Plans to Legally Prohibit Reverse Gas Supplies to Ukraine

One issue at the talks - which have dragged on since June, when Russian stopped gas flows to Ukraine due to unpaid bills - was Ukraine's inability to raise enough financing during a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

Putin said that Ukraine owed Russia $4.5 billion for gas supplies in the end of 2013 and in 2014. Ukraine has said it set aside $3.1 billion to cover Russian gas purchases, which is not enough to make a prepayment and redeem part of the debt.

"We took upon ourselves a huge responsibility and risks. We think that it is absolutely fair that these risks be shared with us by the European or American partners," Putin told an informal group of experts on Russia that includes many Western specialists critical of him.

"Let them give $1.5 billion, at least for a month," he said, adding that he personally asked Russian gas exporter Gazprom not to claim the $4.5 billion outstanding debt at once.

Read also: Putin is Convinced That EU Will Not Survive Without Russian Gas

He urged the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to give Ukraine a bridge loan to settle the gas dispute with Russia before Kiev gets a $3 billion tranche from the IMF in January.

"Help Ukraine, give it a bridge loan for a month," Putin said, adding that so far he has got a negative response.

He stressed that if the problem is not resolved, there is a high likelihood of unauthorized use of transit gas by Ukraine and subsequent gas crisis in the EU.

 
 
 
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