Fears escalate for Europe's gas supplies over Ukraine payment row

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Fears are increasing that the Crimea dispute could lead Russia to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine’s crippled economy with a knock-on effect for Europe.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin will meet senior officials on Wednesday to discuss economic ties with Ukraine, including energy.

The price the Ukrainians are being charged for gas has been doubled by Russia’s state-controlled producer Gazprom, which is demanding that Kyiv pay the equivalent of 1.6 billion euros that it owns for gas already pumped.

Gazprom has not said whether it would cut off supplies if they do not pay. It has previously suggested that it might ask Kiev to pay in advance for its gas if it fails to pay its bills.

In Brussels, Ukraine’s energy minister, EU officials and industry representatives met on Tuesday to discuss how to reduce reliance on Russian gas.

One way to do that would be using liquefied natural gas, which is super-cooled and then transported on ships from sources around the world.

Since the last crisis over Kiev’s unpaid gas bills in 2009 – which led to the disruption of exports to western Europe – the European Union has increased gas storage and introduced more renewable energy, but not enough to be able to dispense with energy supplies from Russia.

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