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Putin Warns EU Of Possible Gas Disruption

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko meeting in Poland in September.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has warned EU President Sweden of possible disruption to natural gas supplies to European consumers because of problems with main transit nation Ukraine over energy payments, Interfax news agency reported.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin raised the issue in a telephone conversation with his Swedish counterpart Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, Interfax said.

"During the conversation, Putin drew the attention of the EU leadership to signals, including those received via official channels from Kyiv, of possible problems with payments for Russian gas supplies," it said, quoting Putin's press service.

"As Putin stressed, as a result of all this, 'problems with Russian gas transits across Ukraine's territory aimed for European consumers could arise'."

Russia cut gas supplies to western Europe via Ukraine in January 2006 and again in January this year during disputes with the former Soviet republic over gas prices and payments. Supplies to EU customers were disrupted in the middle of winter.

On October 30, in a telephone talk with Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko, Putin accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko of risking a new gas crisis in Europe.

Tymoshenko is Yushchenko's main political foe and a front-runner for a January 17 presidential election.

Diplomats have said Russia may be wary of entering a new gas dispute with Kyiv on the eve of the vote, which Moscow hopes will bring a more pro-Russian president to power.

Ukraine's deep economic crisis has raised fears about its ability to pay for Russian gas.