Schaeuble Says G-7 to Respond Quickly to Putin Letter on Ukraine

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Group of Seven members will respond quickly to a letter by Russian President Vladimir Putin to 18 European leaders in which he said Russia’s OAO Gazprom would halt shipments to Ukraine if it continued to fall behind in payments.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing as finance chiefs gathered in Washington, Schaeuble said the West doesn’t want the Ukraine crisis, triggered by Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula, to escalate while announcing it would stand firm if such an escalation occurred.

“One can’t exclude, that’s the risk, that things will escalate and everybody should know that the West, the Europeans, the Americans, the G-7 and the overwhelming part of the international community will take a firm stance” in that event, said Schaeuble, who met with his Russian counterpart Anton Siluanov yesterday.

After annexing Crimea and deploying thousands of troops along the border, Putin has been raising pressure on Ukraine, threatening to halt gas shipments. Ukraine is dominating discussions at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Schaeuble said there’s no denying that Ukraine is in arrears with gas delivery payments to Gazprom and noted that some European countries faced difficulties some years ago getting reliable gas deliveries that flowed through Ukraine.

Stability in Ukraine must be restored together with Russia, and not against Russia, though that’s mainly a job for leaders, foreign ministers and energy ministers, not for finance ministers, Schaeuble said.

G-7 finance ministers and central bankers had a “discussion of the situation in Ukraine, its financing needs and the international response,” they said in a statement after talks in Washington yesterday. The group comprises the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

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