Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to 18 European leaders Thursday saying that a dispute over Ukraine’s gas debt to Russia could impact gas distribution throughout the continent, urging them to offer financial assistance to the indebted country.
“The situation in urgent,” Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said of Ukraine’s debt. Putin’s letter stated that Ukraine’s failure to make payments to Gazprom, Russia’s gas extractor, will “completely or partially cease gas deliveries,” exacerbating tensions between the feuding countries.
Although the International Monetary Fund has already agreed to provide Ukraine with between $14 and $18 billion to avoid a default, that figure is far smaller than what Putin claims the country owes. In his letter, Putin says that Ukraine owes Russia $17 billion in gas discounts on top of a potential $18.4 billion debt due to a 2009 fine. He said that this debt grows by billions every day.
“No other country provided such support except Russia,” he said, according to Russian state media, adding that European partners offer Ukraine no real support, “only promises that are not backed up by real actions.”
Russia almost doubled its gas prices in Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February, amid an uprising against the country’s pro-Russian leadership.