Russian energy giant Gazprom could cut gas deliveries to Ukraine from March 8 if Naftogaz does not pay for supplies received in February, Russian business daily Kommersant reported on Thursday.

The newspaper said Naftogaz does not have the money to pay for the gas, according to RIA Novosti.

A week ago Naftogaz warned it might face problems paying for gas supplied by Russia's gas monopoly as non-payments by Ukrainian utilities were leaving the national energy company short of funds. The issue was discussed at a Gazprom board meeting on Tuesday.

"If $400 million is not forthcoming by March 7, it will be necessary once again to cut off Ukraine," Andrei Kruglov was quoted as saying by an unidentified participant in the meeting. Kommersant said a senior Gazprom official confirmed such a plan is being developed.

"The company will carry out its obligations to consumers and transport gas at previous volumes. But the volume of gas delivered to Ukraine will be reduced - fuel will not be supplied to Naftogaz free of charge," the source said.

Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine on January 1 over non-payments and the two sides' failure to agree a delivery contract for 2009. A week later, Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing gas intended for EU consumers and cut off gas deliveries to the European Union via the country, prompting two weeks of major gas shortages across much of Eastern Europe.

The standoff was resolved after negotiations between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko. The gas supply and transit contract signed on January 19 by Gazprom and Naftogaz stipulates that the Russian energy giant can switch to 100% prepayments if payments are not received on time.

Naftogaz spokesman Valentin Zemlyansky on Wednesday told Kommersant that the company hoped "to collect the necessary sum of money by March 7 and to make the payment."

Another company source said Naftogaz could find $100-$160 million, but did not say where the remaining funds would come from.


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