Russia’s Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas producer, has sent a $11.4 billion bill to Ukraine’s Naftogaz. The money is for the two thirds of the gas it failed to use under its 2009 take-or-pay contract .
According to the contract Naftogaz had to consume 41.6 billion cubic meters of gas last year, while Ukraine used only 12.9 billion cubic meters, Bloomberg quotes Aliona Osmolovska, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian company as saying.
In the take-or-pay contract Ukraine is obliged to pay for the volume agreed, whether it is used or not.
Ukraine is looking to avoid dependence on Russia, accusing President Vladimir Putin of using energy exports as a political tool.
About half of Ukrainian gas imports come from Russia and 15 percent of Europe’s annual gas consumption goes through Ukrainian pipelines. This makes the energy issue a central problem as tensions with Russia escalate.
“Russia is clearly whipping up tension before Ukraine’s talks with Europe, understanding that Naftogaz won’t pay,” Bloomberg quotes Bohdan Sokolovskyi, an energy adviser to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. “Under the contract, Gazprom truly has the right to demand $11.4 billion. The other issue is the contract was unfair.”
In the talks with Europe Ukraine wants to reverse the flow in EU-bound pipelines to supply its domestic needs.
Currently Ukraine needs to pay $485 per a thousand of cubic metres of Russian gas, which compares to $268.5 agreed between Russia and Ukraine in December.
Kiev has repeatedly said this price is “unacceptable”, purely "political" and isn't ready to pay it.