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Russia 'Cancels Out' the European Union's $15 Billion Bailout for Ukraine With $18 Billion Gas Bill

Burner on stove: Photo by Shalom Tesciuba.
Photo by Shalom Tesciuba.
By AP
Dragging much of Europe into his fight with Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged European leaders Thursday to quickly help Ukraine settle its gas debt to Russia to prevent an imminent shutdown of Russian natural gas supplies to the continent.

Putin's letter to 18 leaders, released Thursday by the Kremlin, is part of Russia's efforts to retain control over its struggling neighbor, which is teetering on the verge of financial ruin and is facing a pro-Russian separatist mutiny in the east.

Putin's move raises the specter of a new gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that could affect much of Europe. In 2009, Moscow turned off supplies to Kiev, leading to the shutdown of Russian gas moving across Ukrainian pipelines to other European countries.

The amount that Putin claims Ukraine owes is growing by billions every day. In the letter, Putin said Ukraine owes Russia $17 billion in gas discounts and potentially another $18.4 billion incurred by Ukraine as a minimal take-or-pay fine under their 2009 gas contract.

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