Ukraine suspended its purchases of Russian natural gas after European Union-mediated price talks collapsed Tuesday.
Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said he was "surprised" that Ukraine was demanding a much deeper discount than what he was offering. He said the price the Ukrainians wanted was out of line with current market conditions, and that the decision to stop buying Russian gas was political.
Ukraine said the price cut Russia was offering was not low enough. But it said it would fulfill its contract to send Russian gas to the EU through pipelines running across Ukrainian territory.
Kyiv's decision marked the second time in less than a year that Russian fuel supplies had stopped running to its westward-leaning former Soviet neighbor. The countries, which have had numerous gas price disputes in the past, plan to discuss the subject again in September, not long before cold weather begins to set in.
Russia most recently increased gas prices to Ukraine last year after the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, and the uprising by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The European Union, aware of the repeated price battles because Russia supplies its 28 member nations with about a third of their natural gas needs, has since been able to broker a series of agreements that need to renewed every three months.
Russia employs complex pricing formulas that vary from country to country and are loosely tied to the global price of oil. The opaque system is being challenged both by Brussels and a growing list of EU state gas firms.
But the Kremlin denies wielding energy as a political weapon against countries — particularly those overseen by Moscow during the Cold War — that try to shake off their dependence on Russia and build closer links with the West.
Kyiv is increasingly relying on supplies from Central European countries and energy-rich Norway.
Ukraine has actually received more gas via pipelines running through Slovakia than those coming from Russia in the first three weeks of June.
Some information for this report came from AFP.