Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Kiev`s decision to cut off gas supplies to eastern Ukraine, which prompted Moscow to start its own direct deliveries, smacked of "genocide".
"It`s not enough that there`s already hunger there, and the OSCE has reported a humanitarian catastrophe, but then to switch off their gas supplies too! What do you call that? That already smacks of genocide," Putin said in televised comments.
Rebel leaders in east Ukraine said last week that Kiev had suddenly ceased gas supplies and asked for access to Russian gas.
Naftogaz, Ukraine`s national gas company, confirmed the move, saying it was due to pipeline damage caused by fighting.
"I don`t know for sure whether the pipeline is damaged or not. What I do know is that about four million people live there," he said.
Russia`s state energy giant Gazprom last week started direct gas supplies to parts of Ukraine under the control of pro-Moscow separatists fighting government forces.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Kiev must pay for the gas, but Naftogaz insisted it would not do so.
On Tuesday, Gazprom warned it could cut off supplies to Ukraine within two days, saying it had failed to make a pre-payment on time.
In turn, Naftogaz charged that Gazprom was not supplying gas to Ukraine that had already been paid for.