TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - President Vladimir Putin says it was "strange" to learn of the US reaction on a Russian letter to the leaders of EU's top gas-consuming nations, as it was in no way designed for Washington's eyes.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has accused Russia of reneging on an agreement that offered reduced gas prices to Kiev and using "energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine."
The price Ukraine is currently paying is "clearly not set by market forces and well above the average price paid by EU members," she added.
"It's a bit strange," Putin said after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov informed him of the US comments during a Russian Security Council meeting. "It's strange, at any rate, as it's bad to read other people's letters. It wasn't addressed to them, but the consumers of gas in Europe."
"Everybody is used to the fact that our American friends are eavesdropping, but turning to peeping is shabby altogether," he said. But, joking apart, the pricing on gas for Kiev is regulated by the contracts Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz signed back in 2009, Putin said.
He added that he wrote his letter because "Russia can't carry the Ukrainian burden alone," urging the European leaders to hold a joint meeting as soon as possible "to find ways to help and support the Ukrainian economy."
"Handing out cakes at the Maidan isn't enough to prevent the Ukrainian economy from plunging into complete chaos," Putin said.
The comment dates back to a PR stunt by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, who tried to feed snacks to protesters and police as she visited Kiev during the standoff in December last year.
In his letter Thursday to European countries including France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland and Romania, Putin warned that Ukraine's debt crisis had reached a "critical" level and could threaten gas transit to Europe.
Russia's Gazprom will be forced to ask Ukraine for advance gas payments due to the accumulated $2.2 billion gas debt owed by Ukraine's Naftogas, Putin said.
"We'll be supplying exactly the volume of gas that Ukraine pays for a month in advance," the letter said.
Following the coup in Kiev, Gazprom has revoked all discounts and now charges $485 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, a price Ukraine says it will not be able to pay because it threatens Ukraine's ability to continue normal gas transit operations to Europe.
RIA NOVOSTI | BBC | NATALIA SANTI