The leaders of gas-starved European nations travelled to Ukraine and Russia yesterday pleading for supplies to be restored.
Ukraine’s natural gas company said for a second day it would not send Russian gas along to Europe.
It claimed that Russia’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, was trying to force it to cut service to parts of Ukraine.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of holding European nations hostage and insisted the EU should not accept Ukraine’s claims. He spoke as he met the prime ministers of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Moldova.
“We opened the tap and are ready to supply gas, but on the other side the tap is closed,” he told the visitors.
“Nobody, no transit country, has the right to use its transit location to take other customers hostage.”
Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said “Ukraine is losing the trust of European partners because of its behaviour”.
Bulgaria’s Sergei Stanishev said: “The most unpleasant part is that millions of Europeans feel like hostages and are truly suffering.”
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who travelled to Poland for talks on the crisis, has accused Russia of trying to wrest control of Ukraine’s 23,000-mile gas network.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Gazprom and Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-run gas company, that he would urge European energy companies to sue them unless they moved quickly to restore gas supplies to the freezing nations.
Gazprom stopped sending gas into Ukraine’s pipeline system on January 7, alleging that Ukraine was siphoning off gas destined for Europe.
The dispute has affected millions of people, mostly in eastern Europe. Thousands of businesses have had to shut down or cut production and are laying off workers.