KIEV, March 16 (Reuters) - Ukraine has paid in part for imports of Russian gas in February and has sufficient stores to provide for the summer period, Energy Ministry Yuri Prodan said on Sunday.
Prodan, speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting, said Ukraine had paid Russian monopoly supplier Gazprom $90 million for its February supplies, leaving $350 million outstanding.
He put Ukraine’s outstanding debts for 2013 supplies at $1.5 billion and said a payment schedule for this would be worked out once the government had reached a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which wants energy sector reforms in exchange.
Gazprom estimates Ukraine’s debts at $1.8 billion and said last week the country should use financial help promised by Western countries after three months of political turmoil, to help cover its gas debts.
The Russian state-controlled gas producer suggested earlier this month that a new conflict over gas payments and supplies - like disputes in 2006 and 2009 that halted supplies to Ukraine and beyond to European consumers - could break out, but added that it had no interest in a resumption of such disputes.
On Sunday Prodan denied any suggestion of a new conflict: “For the moment, we have received no declarations of this nature.”
He added that a total of 7.9 billion cubic metres was now in underground storage areas, enough for the coming summer period.
Prodan also said operations for gas extraction in the Black Sea by Chornomornaftogaz were proceeding normally, with no effect from Russia’s moves to take control of the Crimea peninsula.
He also said supplies of nuclear fuel from Russia for Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors were proceeding normally as were shipments out of the country of spent fuel.
Reporting by Natalya Zinets, Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Sophie Walker