12:01 AM, April 12, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Europe's stability at stake: Russia

Europe's stability at stake: Russia

Afp, Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday warned that European stability was being threatened by rising anti-Russian sentiment over the Ukraine crisis.
"The current inflaming of anti-Russian sentiments takes place against the background of a spike of racism and xenophobia in many European countries, an increase in the number of ultra-radical groups and turning a blind eye to neo-Nazi phenomena, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere," he said.
Russia's top diplomat, quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency, added that this "carries an obvious threat to European stability."
The Russian foreign minister also denied that Moscow had sent any soldiers or security agents to Ukraine's eastern regions where a separatist movement has demanded independence from Kiev.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's embattled premier yesterday vowed to give more powers to the country's pro-Russian regions in an effort to stamp out a separatist insurgency as a new gas war with Russia threatened European supplies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday threatened to cut off Ukraine's gas over unpaid bills. The decision could limit the supplies of at least 18 European nations for the third time since 2006.
Putin's warning came after Russia had already hiked Ukraine's energy price by 81 percent and demanded that his neighbour rewrite its constitution in order to give eastern regions the right to set their own economic and diplomatic relations with Moscow.
Putin's gas threat prompted the US State Department on Thursday to denounce "Russia's efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion" and President Barack Obama to raise the possibility of a third and most painful yet round of sanctions against Moscow.
Meanwhile, EU yesterday urged Russia to honour its gas.
"Europe is a reliable gas client and we expect our suppliers to meet their commitments", said European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen in the latest chapter of the East-West tug-of-war over Ukraine.
Around a quarter of Europe's gas is bought from Russia, with half of that piped through Ukraine.
Putin replied favourably. He said Moscow would fulfil its obligations to send natural gas to Europe but also said the United States had no business interfering in Russia's talks with Europe over Kiev's debt.
"We certainly guarantee the fulfilment of our obligations before our European customers in full," Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin. "The issue is not about us, the issue is about securing transit through Ukraine."


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