Russia threatens Ukraine before Paris meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to want peace in Ukraine in an interview on Monday, hours before state-owned Gazprom threatened to cut off gas supplies to the country - hitting EU countries too - if it didn't pay outstanding bills immediately.

Russia threatens Ukraine before Paris meeting
Photo: DPA

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are set to meet in Paris on Tuesday, with the hopes of salvaging a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine derailed by violence in Debaltseve in East Ukraine.

The Paris meeting follows encouraging remarks from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appeared on television on Monday to say he hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine conflict and that trust was returning between Russia, France and Germany after recently-held peace talks in the Belarusian capital Minsks.

"I think such an apocalyptic scenario [as war] is very unlikely – and I hope it doesn't come to that," Putin said.

In contradiction to the message of peace, however, energy giant Gazprom threatened on Tuesday to switch off Ukraine's gas supply if no new payments come in, according to a report from Spiegel.

Ukraine currently has gas reserves of 219 cubic million, enough for two days – the timeframe laid down by Gazprom for new payment.

Spiegel quoted Gazprom chief Alexei Miller as saying a delivery interruption to the Ukraine “could also have an impact on European energy supply”.

The EU imports two-thirds of its energy, with Russia being the biggest supplier. Russia's outsized role in European energy provision has been its strongest diplomatic card as it defends its treatment of Ukraine against EU criticism.

As European governments work on getting a Russian-Ukrainian peace deal back on track, they are also considering a proposal to reduce dependency on Russian gas by forming an “Energy Union” composed of the 28 member states.

However, it is likely to meet resistance from ministers in Berlin, who maintain that energy should remain the jurisdiction of national governments.

The EU is currently exploring energy supply deals, with a memorandum of understanding between the EU, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan potentially getting off the ground this year.

However, that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan – the former known for heavy censorship, the latter as a dictatorship – are far from functioning democracies may open any deal with the two countries to controversy.

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Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have met the Ukrainian president in Kyiv, after the trio travelled overnight by train from Poland.

Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

The three leaders left in the early hours of Thursday, arriving into Kyiv on Thursday morning. After a visit to the heavily-bombed town of Irpin, they met Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

It is the first time that the leaders of the three European Union countries have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, and the visit comes as Kyiv is pushing for membership of the EU.

Macron has been paying a two-day visit to Romania and Moldova to discuss the ongoing crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There had been widespread speculation in France that he would combine the trip with a visit to Zelensky in Ukraine, but this was not confirmed until Thursday morning.

In a joint press conference with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, Macron reiterated his desire that Ukraine should win the war, but added that eventually negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will be necessary.