Putin Sets A One-Month Deadline For Ukraine To Pay Its Debts Even As US Threatens To Impose Further Sanctions If Geneva Deal Not Followed

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Masked pro-Russia protesters wait in a queue to get food inside a regional government building in Donetsk

Russian president Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Russia’s demand for Ukraine to settle gas debts is unconnected to the political situation in Ukraine, adding that he expects relations to improve with the West following the Geneva meeting.

Ukraine owes Russia a $2.2 billion gas bill, for which Putin has given a one-month deadline. But Putin reiterated that he did not consider the date of the presidential elections a deadline for the payment and asked European countries to assist Ukraine in “financing the budget.”

“We do not connect the economy with the political process in Ukraine,” Putin reportedly said in a television interview, according to ITAR-TASS, the Russian news agency. “But, like we have agreed, if they do not make due payments, we shall be using the initial price formula. It is - as per the contract - 485 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters. And we are saying - we could do it right now, even with the aggregated debt of 2.2 billion dollars, but we would not do so.”

Meanwhile, U.S. warned Russia that it will impose new sanctions if it fails to comply with the agreement negotiated in Geneva.

“We’re going to test over the coming days whether this accord sticks, whether it will be implemented. And I think the clear answer to your question of what’s Russia’s engagement is if they do not play a role here, if they do not take steps they need to take, there will be consequences, and there will be consequences, certainly, for Russia,” Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said at a daily briefing.

The Thursday meeting between diplomats from Russia, U.S., Ukraine and other European countries concluded with a deal that would require illegal groups to be disarmed and to vacate all government buildings and public spaces. In return, the protesters in eastern Ukraine would be pardoned except for capital crimes. In addition, the Ukraine government would start a public consultation program to pass on constitutional powers to the provinces.

But despite the deal, separatists have reportedly not left the buildings.

"To call us criminals and terrorists for occupying buildings, while calling the people in Kiev who have done the exact same thing heroes, is at the very least not right," Denis Pushilin, the leader of People's Republic of Donetsk said, according to the Guardian.

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