Russian FM says gas payment issue with Ukraine not political
( RIA Novosti ) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that payment for natural gas supplies from Russia to Ukraine is not a political issue.
"There is no political undercurrent to a situation in which money was not paid on time," Lavrov said. "The situation has been resolved, and I do not see any reason to politicize it."
Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Tuesday it had reached an agreement with Ukraine on settling the country's gas debt after a week-long dispute, which triggered concerns in Europe over possible disruptions to supplies, similar to those during a pricing dispute between the former Soviet allies in early 2006.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said on Tuesday that as of the beginning of October, Ukraine's debt totaled $2 billion, well above the figure of $1.3 billion previously quoted by officials.
Some analysts suggested the fresh dispute is an attempt by Moscow to pressure Ukraine to form a pro-Russian government after recent parliamentary elections, in which pro-Western parties emerged with a narrow majority, or to weaken Ukraine's position ahead of talks on 2008 gas prices.
An influential U.S. senator said on Tuesday that Gazprom had raised the debt issue two days after the polls in Ukraine, which was tantamount to saying: "Russia-friendly Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych lost, so we want our money back."
The statement by Richard Lugar, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's senior Republican, came ahead of "2+2" talks between Russia's Lavrov and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and their American counterparts on missile defense in Europe, one of the main points of contention in Russia-U.S. relations, to be held in Moscow on Friday and Saturday.