Connect to share and comment

EU to help Ukraine pay Russian gas bill

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The European Union will help Ukraine pay the $2.0 billion it owes to Russian gas giant Gazprom, a top official said Tuesday, as part of an aid package reportedly worth more than one billion euros.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said that "payment of the outstanding Ukraine bills is high up in the Commission's aid package," expected to be adopted on Wednesday.

Ukraine's state gas firm Naftogaz "owes about two billion dollars to Gazprom and we are going to help it pay this bill," he said, adding the EU could even supply the country with gas.

EU officials are due to nail down the details of the Ukraine aid package on Wednesday, ahead of an emergency EU leaders' summit the following day.

Brussels has offered Ukraine 610 million euros ($840 million) in aid so far and reports suggest the 28-member bloc could free up an additional 500 million euros as the West faces off with Russia in a Cold War-style confrontation.

However, the package in the pipeline is a far cry from the 25 billion euros over two years which the newly installed Ukrainian government says it needs.

It is expecting the IMF to provide 15 billion euros this year.

Earlier Tuesday, the United States pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine.

"We are mutually dependent: the European Union needs Russian gas and Russia's economy needs the money from its gas," Oettinger stressed.

The EU may even find itself providing gas to Ukraine, given the two are connected by a gas pipeline which allows the flow to be reversed -- a legacy of the 2009 gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia.

"Slovakia could reverse the flow towards Ukraine," Oettinger said.

Earlier Tuesday, the United States pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees.

On Monday, the Commission sent a delegation of experts to Kiev to assess the troubled country's financial needs. The European economists will work alongside IMF experts expected in the country on Tuesday.

On Sunday, finance ministers of the G7 grouping of leading world economies said they were determined to support Ukraine's battered economy, providing the country agreed to the economic reforms sought by the IMF.

csg/jlb/bmm/ric

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140304/eu-help-ukraine-pay-russian-gas-bill-0