White House wants EU, Russia gas talks to continue

 

The E.U. and Russia should continue failed talks over natural gas deliveries to Ukraine, the White House said Monday, amid reports that Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom had suspended service over a pricing dispute.

"We're supportive of that effort and we’re hopeful it will continue," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.

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Moscow has threatened to disrupt gas flows to Ukraine amid that country's political turbulence, which saw the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russian forces.

Gazprom has demanded nearly $2 billion from Kiev in back payments, and warned that it would force Ukraine to prepay in advance for future energy shipments.

But Kiev has refused to satisfy back payments unless Russia rolls back a series of price hikes instituted after Yanukovych's departure. Gazprom is currently demanding nearly twice as much for natural gas as it did a year ago.

Earnest said Monday that "access to energy supplies should not be used to inappropriately influence the government of another country." 

"It shouldn’t be used to coerce another nation’s political leadership, so that’s something that we’re concerned about and we’re following very closely," he continued. "There is an opportunity for us to act with our partners around the world to protect the interests of a sovereign Ukraine."

Earlier this month, President Obama called on European leaders to expand and diversify their energy supplies. Obama also said countries like Ukraine needed to find ways to become more efficient with its energy.