Putin says Russia to honour gas deals with Europe
Lavrov says Russia doesn’t want take over any more Ukrainian territory
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin stands before a meeting with members of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow today. Photograph: Mikhail Klimetyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Russian president Vladimir Putin has said Russia would fulfill its obligations to European gas clients and had no plans to halt deliveries to Ukraine although Moscow could make Kiev pay in advance for deliveries.
“We guarantee fulfillment of all our obligations to our European consumers,” Mr Putin said in remarks that appeared aimed at easing concerns in Europe but keeping pressure on Ukraine to pay its $2.2 billion debt for Russian gas.
Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia did not want to take over more Ukrainian territory but repeated a call for Kiev to grant more powers to regional authorities, RIA news agency reported.
The West has accuses Russia of placing 40,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and is worried that Moscow could send forces into the east of the country following its annexation of Crimea last month.
“We cannot have such a desire. It contradicts the core interests of the Russian Federation. We want Ukraine to be whole within its current borders, but whole with full respect for the regions,” state-run RIA quoted Mr Lavrov as saying.
Russia has denied any substantial build-up on the Ukrainian border but says it has the right to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers who are dominant in regions of eastern Ukraine.
Nato and the United States have accused Russia of stirring separatist unrest in cities in eastern Ukraine where pro-Moscow protesters have taken over public administration buildings and demanded more autonomy from Kiev.