President Vladimir Putin says Russia will honor its contracts with its European natural gas clients.
Speaking April 11 at a meeting of his advisory Security Council in Moscow, Putin said, "We certainly guarantee the fulfillment of all our obligations to our European consumers."
"The question is not about us," he added. "The question is about providing transit across Ukraine."
He said that Russia has no plans to halt deliveries to Ukraine but could make Kyiv pay in advance for deliveries.
Putin also called again on the West to help Ukraine pay its outstanding gas bills.
"What is the immediate problem?" he asked rhetorically. "The problem is that Russia is unable unilaterally to carry such a burden."
He added, "It is for that reason we appealed to our European partners and friends to meet together as soon as possible to decide on the ways of rendering help and support to the Ukrainian economy if any of them really care about Ukraine."
European Commission Meeting
Putin spoke just hours after the European Commission urged Russia to honor its gas contracts following warnings from Moscow that European supplies could be in peril if Ukraine's gas bills went unpaid.
Spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said in Brussels April 11 that "Europe is a reliable gas client and we expect our suppliers to meet their commitments."
The EU statement was in response to a letter Putin sent on April 10 to leaders of 18 European countries, warning them Moscow could cut gas supplies to Ukraine if Kyiv fails to pay a $2.2-billion debt.
Meanwhile, the European Union's energy commissioner says the EU is working on a solution to help Ukraine pay back its gas bills and called for calm.
"I'm preparing a solution that will be part of the IMF [International Monetary Fund], EU [European Union] and World Bank aid package to Ukraine and will allow the payment of unpaid bills," Guenther Oettinger told Austrian Oe1 radio on April 11.
"We think we can find solutions in the next few weeks," he added.
Ukraine says it cannot agree to pay Moscow's new high prices for natural gas and hopes to buy gas instead from Europe.
Ukrainian Energy and Coal Minister Yuriy Prodan told lawmakers on April 11 in Kyiv that Ukraine will not agree with Russia's "political" price for gas and will refer the matter to an arbitration tribunal in Stockholm.
Prodan says it must challenge Russia's decision last week to increase the gas price for Ukraine to $480 for 1,000 cubic meters, a more than 40 percent increase from the price in March.
Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters