Gazprom says to lodge counterclaim against Ukraine

Russian gas giant Gazprom said today that it would lodge a counterclaim against Ukraine`s gas firm if taken to court, in a sign that Moscow was not backing down in their acrimonious energy dispute.

Moscow: Russian gas giant Gazprom said today that it would lodge a counterclaim against Ukraine`s gas firm if taken to court, in a sign that Moscow was not backing down in their acrimonious energy dispute.

"Gazprom would lodge a counterclaim against Ukraine`s Naftogaz with the Stockholm arbitration court," said Gazprom chief Alexei Miller.

The Russian and Ukrainian energy companies have been locked in a fresh energy dispute since Moscow nearly doubled the price Kiev pays for natural gas in the wake of the February ouster of Ukraine`s Russian-backed president.

Moscow has threatened to cut gas supplies if Kiev does not pay its debt in full, but has offered to reduce the price demanded by 20 per cent to USD 385 per 1,000 cubic metres.

Ukraine has refused to accept Russia`s latest offer, saying the price was still unfair, and threatened to take Gazprom to arbitration court.

Miller today accused the Ukrainian company of intransigence and unwillingness to come to a compromise.

"From the very beginning of the talks the Ukrainian side has never sought any compromise, never sought any agreements," Miller said, adding that Ukraine chose to speak with Russia from a "position of ultimatums."

Miller said such a stance was "strange (and) absurd."

"It`s simply blackmail," he said in televised remarks.

"It looks like the goal of the Ukrainian side is to aggravate to the maximum our relations in the gas sphere."

He spoke after the latest round of EU-brokered gas talks broke up in Brussels yesterday, with Ukraine saying it could not accept the current pricing mechanism.

Russia has repeatedly pushed back the deadline for Ukraine to pay for Russian energy deliveries after cash-strapped Ukraine made an initial payment of USD 786 million.

Miller reiterated today that Naftogaz had now until early Monday to pay Gazprom USD 1.95 billion.

"This deadline will not be pushed back any more," Miller said.

Moscow says Kiev owes it $4.5 billion in outstanding bills.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that European energy supplies may be interrupted if Gazprom is forced to pull the plug on Ukrainian gas deliveries and called on the West to help Kiev settle its bills.

Disputes in 2006 and 2009 between Russia and Ukraine over the price of gas led to cuts in supplies to Europe.

About 15 per cent of the natural gas that Europe consumes is Russian gas that transits through Ukraine.

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