MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sent a letter to EU leaders, expressing his "extreme concern" over Ukraine's debt for Russian gas and warning them that supplies to Europe may be affected, his spokesman said.
"Indeed, such a letter signed by Putin was today delivered to heads of state of Eastern and Western Europe through diplomatic channels," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state RIA Novosti news agency.
"Putin expresses extreme concern over the critical situation around Ukraine's debt and supplies of Russian gas related to it," Peskov said.
The letter, sent after a government meeting on Wednesday, contains a number of proposals on how to settle the situation, Peskov said.
"The proposals are aimed at taking urgent measures, since (a solution to) the situation cannot be delayed," he said, declining to be more specific.
The Interfax news agency, citing Peskov, said Putin had proposed "dialogue mechanisms to urgently discuss the situation." "The complicated situation indeed may negatively affect the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine," Peskov was quoted as saying.
Putin on Wednesday warned that Russia may begin requiring advance payment for natural gas from Ukraine, which has accrued US$2.2 billion (S$2.75 billion) in unpaid energy bills, according to Russian natural gas giant Gazprom.
He added that it was "strange" that EU countries, while supporting the new authorities in Kiev "are doing nothing to support Ukraine." "This situation cannot last indefinitely," he has said.
Earlier this month, Gazprom announced it was raising the price of gas exports to Ukraine by more than a third, scrapping a previous discount amid soaring political tensions between the two ex-Soviet countries.
Ukraine now has to pay US$485 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres of gas, the highest price of any of Gazprom's clients in Europe.
End-of-the-year haggling over energy prices has become a familiar problem in ties between Russia and Ukraine, with Moscow cutting natural gas to Ukraine and disrupting transit supplies to Europe in the past.
Ukraine maintains that Russia is punishing Ukraine for its Western ambitions and has threatened to take Moscow to court.