The Ukrainian president on Wednesday welcomed a European Union call for legal action in its bitter gas dispute with Russia, saying it would give Kiev the chance to prove it is not to blame for leaving many Europeans without heat.
President Viktor Yushchenko's remarks came hours after the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, warned the Russian and Ukrainian state-run gas companies that he will urge European energy companies to sue them unless they move quickly to restore gas supplies.
Yushchenko, visiting Poland, welcomed that call.
"We are ready to support any European efforts to force our Russian partners to resume full contract supplies as soon as possible," Yushchenko told reporters after a meeting with his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski.
"From the legal standpoint, I will support all actions of the European Commission because I am sure that Ukraine will be able to prove that it clearly, correctly and completely fulfilled its obligations," Yushchenko said.
Russia supplies about one-quarter of the EU's natural gas, 80 percent of it shipped through Ukraine's vast pipeline network. Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe on Jan. 7 amid the pricing dispute with Ukraine, just as the continent was gripped by freezing temperatures.
Yushchenko also accused Russia of using the gas dispute to gain control of Ukraine's gas transit network.
He said Russia's gas company Gazprom wants to charge the former Soviet republic an unfairly high price in order to drive it into debt and later acquire a controlling stake in its pipeline network.
Yushchenko said Gazprom wants to charge Ukraine $450 per 1,000 cubic meters, while demanding lower rates this year of $250-280 from Germany and $300 from the Czech Republic.
He said Russia planned "first to impose a non-market price, then to lead (Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz) into debt, then for Gazprom to acquire a 50 percent stake in the transit system."
He vowed to never let that happen.
"This scenario is no good for us," Yushchenko said.
Russia opened a tap to Ukraine on Tuesday. But Ukraine's Naftogaz did not deliver the gas to Europe, saying Gazprom demanded it use a route that was technically arduous and would force it to halt supplies to a large swath of Ukraine's territory.
Russia, however, accused Ukraine of blocking the onward flow of the gas.
Yushchenko said Ukraine would guarantee deliveries of Russian gas to Europe only if Gazprom sends enough gas to cover Europe's entire daily gas consumption of some 300-410 million cubic meters a day.
Yushchenko also called on Russia to sign a temporary agreement that would guarantee deliveries of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine until the countries reach a bilateral agreement on prices and transit fees.
While EU officials blamed both Russia and Ukraine, Poland's President Kaczynski swung his support behind Kiev.
"I don't see Ukraine's fault," he said.