Brussels: The European Union urged Russia on Friday to honour its gas contracts after President Vladimir Putin warned Europe its supplies were in peril unless it helped pay Ukraine's gas debt.
"Europe is a reliable gas client and we expect our suppliers to meet their commitments," said European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen in the latest chapter of the East-West tug-of-war over Ukraine.
Around a quarter of Europe's gas is bought from Russia, with half of that piped through Ukraine.
The spokeswoman also underlined that 70 percent of Russia's energy exports, including oil and gas, go to Europe, accounting for about half of the state's revenues.
She was taking questions at a news briefing the day after Putin warned that Moscow was tired of accruing debt from the Western-backed leadership in Kiev.
Commission officials sought to reassure consumers, saying there had been no disruption to Europe's gas supplies and that reserves were high.
"All gas supplies are normal and stable and we expect all sides to respect their commitments," said the Commission's energy spokeswoman Sabine Berger.
Gas reserves currently totalled 37 billion cubic metres, or around 50 percent of total capacity, "and several member states are refilling," Berger added.
In a letter to 18 EU nations, Putin warned that state gas firm Gazprom could be "compelled to switch over to advance payment for gas deliveries" and "completely or partially cease gas deliveries" if Ukraine fails to pay a $2.2-billion (1.6-billion-euro) debt.
Putin added that "Russia is prepared to participate in the effort to stabilise and restore Ukraine's economy" but only on "equal terms" with the EU.
An EU diplomat said Putin's letter showed "the continued case for the EU to diversify its energy sources" as well as the fact that "Russia is not in a de-escalatory mode."
The letter was sent to the leaders of France, Germany, Poland, Greece, Serbia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Italy, but not to the European Union as such.
Also on the list of the recipients, all of them countries that receive Russian gas through Ukraine pipelines, were Moldova, Romania, Turkey, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Macedonia, the Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned "Russia's efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion" and said the US was working with Ukraine to provide financing and help it meet its gas requirements.