Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to cut gas supplies off to Ukraine over unpaid bills, and has written a letter to the leaders of 18 European nations explaining the gas situation to them.
He also warned them Ukraine might “siphon off” supplies destined for them.
For the United States this amounts to unacceptable strong-arm tactics.
“We condemn Russia’s efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine. It’s relevant to point out that they are selling the gas at far above the market rate. And obviously, we’re taking steps to work with our partners in the region to help Ukraine during this time,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Russia has cut gas supplies twice before during price disputes, which led to reduced supplies in European countries, but claims it has subsidised the Ukrainian economy with cheap energy for years, to the tune of nearly 40 billion euros.
NATO angered Moscow on Thursday by releasing satellite pictures it says show the buildup of Russian forces along Ukraine’s border, confounding Russian claims the additional units had been withdrawn.
In another gesture of support for Kyiv, French and American warships passed through the Bosphorous en route to taking up stations in the Black Sea.