Putin Says Deadline to Pay for Gas Isn’t Linked to Ukraine Vote

Russia wasn’t considering the date of planned elections in Ukraine when it set a deadline for its neighbor to start paying for natural gas supplies, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We don’t tie economics to the political process in Ukraine,” Putin said in an interview on state-run television’s “Vesti With Sergey Brilev” program broadcast today, according to a transcript provided by the president’s office. “It’s just that we were supposed to be paid on April 7 for gas delivered in March. We weren’t, and I’ll say it again, that’s $525 million. We got nothing.”

Ukraine’s gas bill, which Putin says has reached $2.2 billion, threatens to undermine steps toward easing tensions agreed on by foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and U.S. in Geneva this week. Putin set a one-month deadline on April 17 during a televised call-in show, where he took questions from the public. Ukraine’s presidential election is scheduled for May 25.

“We don’t want to undermine the Ukrainian economy or raise any questions about the reliability of transit supplies to Europe,” Putin said. “We’re calling on European countries, on all countries interested in supporting Ukraine’s economy, to help Ukraine take steps to finance its budget.”