EU to Russia: Don't shut off Ukraine's natural gas

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that any halt in the flow of natural gas through Ukraine would hurt the Kremlin's image as a supplier.

In a letter to Putin, Barroso said Russia should not cut off Ukraine's natural gas supply even though Ukraine's prime minister has said the Ukraine government will not pay its gas bill. The move by Ukraine came after Russia's state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, increased the price of natural gas it charges Ukraine.

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Last week, Putin threatened to cut off Ukraine's supply of gas if the government didn't pay up.

"Such a development is cause of a serious concern as it carries the danger of an interruption of service into the European Union and other partner countries and affecting the storage of gas in Ukraine for supplies in the coming winter," Barroso wrote.

"Still with regard to the reference in your letter to the last resort possibility to completely or partially cease gas deliveries in the event of further alleged violation of the conditions of payments by Ukraine, we would strongly urge you to refrain from such measures, which would create doubts about your willingness to be seen as a reliable supplier of gas to Europe," the letter states.

Right now, Secretary of State John Kerry is working with the European Union to explore alternative routes for natural gas supplies.

One possibility is to transport natural gas through the southern corridor from Azerbaijan to Turkey on to Europe, the administration said earlier this month.

The energy instability in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, following Russia's invasion of Crimea, has fostered a growing debate on Capitol Hill over natural gas exports to non-Free Trade Agreement countries or North Atlantic Treaty Organization members.