Ukraine on Saturday rejected Russia’s latest gas price hike and threatened to take its energy-rich neighbor to arbitration court over a dispute that could imperil deliveries to western Europe.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russia’s two rate increases in three days were a form of “economic aggression” aimed at punishing Ukraine’s new leaders for overthrowing a Moscow-backed regime last month.
Russia’s natural gas group Gazprom last week raised the price of Ukrainian gas by 81 percent — to US$485.50 from US$268.50 for 1,000m3 — requiring the ex-Soviet state to pay the highest rate of any of its European clients.
The decision threatens to further fan a furious diplomatic row between Moscow and the West that has left Kremlin insiders facing sanctions and more diplomatic isolation than at any stage since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Political pressure is unacceptable. And we do not accept the price of US$500,” Yatsenyuk told a Cabinet meeting called to get a handle on the economic crisis that threatens to escalate tensions in the culturally splintered nation of 46 million.
The profound scale of the rift between those who see their future tied to either Europe or the Kremlin was underscored when security agents announced the arrest of 15 men who allegedly planned to distribute 300 machine guns for the armed overthrow of the local government of a region neighboring Russia.
Ukraine’s heavily Russified southeastern swaths have sought to stage their own independence referendums similar to the one that resulted in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea being annexed by Moscow last month.
Yatsenyuk said Ukraine must now prepare for the possibility that “Russia will either limit or halt deliveries of gas to Ukraine” in the coming weeks or months.
In other developments, the body of a far-right Ukrainian activist and reporter was found dumped in the woods with signs of torture a day after his abduction, his party said yesterday.
The blood-caked and bruised remains of Svoboda (Freedom) ultranationalist party member Vasyl Sergiyenko were found under a pile of rubbish in the woods near the central Ukrainian village of Vygrayev, 120km southeast of Kiev, the party said in a statement.
Sergiyenko helped organize the deadly protests that gripped Kiev and led to the ouster of pro-Russian former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last month, Svoboda said. He was also a member of one of the nationalist opposition’s self-defense groups that periodically clashed with the police.
“There are signs of torture on Vasyl Sergiyenko’s body: His head was bashed in, his kneecaps mangled,” said the group in a statement, adding that there were also knife stab wounds near his heart, neck and nape of the neck.
The local prosecutor’s office confirmed Sergiyenko’s abduction and the discovery of his body in the woods, but provided no other details, citing an ongoing investigation.