01 September 2011 - With the winter season approaching, Ukraine and Russia have reignited old tensions about gas pricing, in a row reminiscent of the trade dispute which ended up leaving parts of Europe cold in 2006 and 2009.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday (31 August) that he was perplexed by Ukraine's attempt to secure a cut in gas prices, accusing the former Soviet republic of trying to sponge from Moscow.

Medvedev, speaking in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, said Ukraine wanted discount gas prices but was offering Russia nothing in return.

"It is very sad, it is sponging," Interfax reported Medvedev as saying.

Alexei Miller, the head of Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom, said on the same day that Ukraine has to pay for at least 33 billion cubic metres of gas a year under the current contract. Reportedly, Ukraine has filed a request to reduce purchases to 27 bcm.

"Such are the take-or-pay conditions of the current contract. The conditions will be applied this year and during all the period of the contract," Alexei Miller said.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said his country, a top buyer of Russian gas, should reduce imports by two thirds in the coming years.

Political process

Tensions between the two countries are rising as Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister of Ukraine, prepares to face trial in her country for having signed a gas treaty with Russia in 2009 which Kyiv now considers detrimental to its interests.

Her trial has triggered street demonstrations by her supporters, and has attracted criticism from US and EU officials.

For the complete article, please see EurActiv.

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