Claims, counter-claims, threats and accusations of blackmail…..
The gas row between Russia and Ukraine is raging more than ever, just hours before Moscow has threatened to turn off the taps. Kiev says it has settled debts of 1.5 billion euros. It refuses to hand over extra cash Russia’s Gazprom wants as a penalty for late payment. The state-owned energy giant acknowledges Ukraine has paid the 1.5 billion to an intermediary. But its Chief Executive Alexei Miller said Gazprom itself had not yet received any money. And he accused Ukraine of adopting an “unconstructive position” in talks on gas supplies for 2009. Muddying the waters further, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has cancelled a trip to Moscow to take part in last-ditch talks. If its supplies are cut on January 1, Kiev denies it would seize Russian gas transiting its territory destined for Western Europe. But Gazprom says Ukraine has threatened to do just that, describing it as “blackmail.” Russia’s Vladimir Putin is warning such action would have “serious consequences.”