The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed Ukraine on Friday for trying to politicize the tense row over gas supplies, which has soured relations between the two former Soviet countries.
In a statement posted on its official website, ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin criticized Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov for attempting "to take the gas problem outside the framework of bilateral commercial negotiations."
He was referring to Yekhanurov's meeting with Western ambassadors Wednesday which touched upon Russian-Ukrainian relations.
"Russia announced from the very start that gas relations with Ukraine should be settled between economic entities of the two countries," Kamynin said. "We kept asking Ukraine not to politicize the issue."
Russia is a key gas supplier to Ukraine and most of its gas exports to Europe pass through Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine now buys Russian gas at a discounted price of 50 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters, but Russia has demanded an end to the preferential prices and offered cash payments for gas transit.
Ukraine said it is willing to switch to market prices for Russian gas but insisted it needs a transitional period.
Kamynin, meanwhile, promised to guarantee gas supplies to Europe despite the fact that Russia has threatened to cut gas to neighboring Ukraine should the two countries fail to cut a deal by Jan. 1, 2006.
"Russia will strictly abide by the existing agreements and contracts with Western partners in the delivery of natural gas," Kamynin said.