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Gazprom to receive Ukraine's $1.5 bln gas debt payment Jan. 11

RIA Novosti

02/01/2009 17:41 MOSCOW, January 2 (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom will receive a $1.5 billion payment from Ukraine for natural gas supplied in late 2008 on January 11, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Friday.

"Considering the holidays, we'll receive the payment on January 11," Kupriyanov said, adding that Ukraine still owed $614 million in outstanding penalties and fines.

Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday after last-ditch talks on a 2009 contract failed late on Wednesday, but increased shipments to European states.

Gazprom said on Wednesday that Ukraine's national oil and gas company Naftogaz had threatened in a letter addressed to the gas giant that it could start confiscating Russian gas meant for European Union consumers after January 1, if no new contract was agreed for 2009.

Kupriyanov said that Ukraine had openly admitted siphoning off Russian transit gas bound for Europe.

"As you know, the Naftogaz management officially and publicly announced that it was withdrawing 21 million cubic meters of gas [per day] from transit volumes. Therefore, the Ukrainian side has openly admitted stealing gas and is not ashamed of that," Kupriyanov said.

The Gazprom spokesman also said that Ukraine was not admitting independent observes to its gas measuring stations to control gas transit to Europe.

Kupriyanov said that Naftogaz was avoiding talks with Gazprom on a new gas contract for 2009.

"The contract for this year has not yet been signed. Naftogaz of Ukraine has quit the negotiations. The negotiating group is in Kiev and has not expressed its readiness so far to fly to Moscow," Kupriyanov said.

Gazprom on Thursday toughened its stance on natural gas prices for Ukraine, saying it would sell gas to the ex-Soviet republic at the European market level of $418 per 1,000 cu m in 2009.

Gazprom earlier offered Ukraine a price of $250 per 1,000 cu m for gas in 2009, about half the current average price in Europe. Ukraine, which paid $179.5 last year, said it was prepared to pay $201, however, but later said that the price of $235 per 1,000 cu m was acceptable for it, if Russians paid more for transit fees.