Austrian Minister: EU Could Pay Ukraine's Gas Debt
Austrian Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner has argued that the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute requires a political decision involving the EU.
"The situation with supplies of Russian natural gas to Ukraine calls for a political decision with the participation of the EU, including a possible payment of the Ukrainian debt by Europe," said Austrian Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner, as cited by the Bulgarian National Radio and RIA Novosti.
According to calculations of Russian energy giant Gazprom, the debt amounts to USD 4.5 B so far.
On Monday, Gazprom introduced a pre-payment system for gas supplies to Ukraine after the talks with Naftogaz mediated by EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger yielded no results.
The suspension of Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine entails the risk of Kiev violating its transit obligations to Western Europe, according to Bulgarian daily Sega.
Mitterlehner said in an interview for the ORF Radio that the country was prepared for a crisis situation, adding that problems in the medium term could not be ruled out.
He added that Austria could receive gas supplies through other pipelines so as to cover next winter as a short-term solution.
Austria's Economy Minister insisted, however, that a political solution on an EU level was necessary to prevent problems.
He suggested that the EU could eventually cover Ukraine's debt, adding that a political solution of the conflict would be necessary in the long term and it would take 3-4 months.
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