Russia's decision to readdress the idea to demand that Ukraine make advance payments for its gas in a month has no relation to upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"This is not related to the elections in any way. We are not tying economy to political processes in Ukraine. We simply were supposed to receive money for gas supplied in March on April 7, but we didn't get it. I'll repeat once again, this is $525 million - by the way, it's the lowest possible price, with all discounts," Putin said in a televised interview shown on Saturday.
Russia does not want "either to undermine the Ukrainian economy or call into question reliability of [gas] transit to Europe," he said.
This is why Russia has urged European and other countries interested in seeing the Ukrainian economy viable "to join the process of assistance to Ukraine and develop measures aimed at financing its budget," he said.
Speaking during a Q&A session on April 17, Putin said Russia would switch to advance payments for gas with Ukraine in a month if Kiev did not start regular payments.
"We are prepared to wait a little more; we'll wait for a month. If no payments are made within one month, then, in accordance with the contract, we will switch to a so called advance payment," he said.
"This means that Ukraine will have to pay us money a month ahead, and we will supply exactly as much gas as they pay for. This is a very difficult system of payments. It could lead to disruptions in our gas transport to European consumers. This is precisely why we are displaying this corporate attitude, agreeability and tolerance. We will wait for one more month," he added.
"But we are asking you [Western partners] to get involved in this work with us; we are asking you to take part in saving the Ukrainian economy. What do we see now in the U.S.? They have promised a billion [to Ukraine]. A billion what? Guarantees. This is not money; it's guarantees to the banks that will give money to Ukraine. Where are these banks? There's no one yet," Putin said.
Speaking on the Saturday program, Putin reaffirmed this position. "We say we could do this right now, considering the accumulated debt of $2.2 billion, but we won't do this. We are ready to wait for one more month. But we can't wait endlessly. We can't heap the entire burden for maintaining a 45-million country on the Russian budget and the Russian taxpayer," he said.
Asked whether it would make sense to switch to rubles in settlements for oil and gas with Ukraine, Putin said. "In principle, this wouldn't matter too much, as Ukraine would anyway have to get rubles somewhere."
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