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   Fears of new cold war as Russia threatens to switch off the gas

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12/29/2005 8:00 pm

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General

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Entered 12/29/2005, Updated 12/29/2005

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At 10am on Sunday, Russia is threatening to unleash the most powerful weapon in its post-Soviet arsenal: unless Ukraine agrees to a fourfold increase in the price it pays for gas, Russia will simply turn off the tap. Nor is it just Ukraine under threat — the EU imports about half of its gas from Russia and 80 per cent of that comes through Ukrainian pipelines. So when President Putin met Ivan Plachkov, the Ukrainian Energy Minister, in Moscow yesterday, there was more at stake than relations between the neighbouring states. Analysts fear the dispute could provide a foretaste of how Russia will use its massive oil and gas reserves as a foreign policy tool in future disputes with the West. “Energy co-operation has replaced military might as the mainstay of Russia’s international credibility,” Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Alfa Bank in Moscow, said. “It is using its importance as an energy partner to pursue its geopolitical and foreign policy agenda.”


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