* PM Medvedev says payment problems critical
* Ukraine says monitoring situation
* Analyst says danger of new gas war
By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, Oct 29 Russian gas export monopoly
Gazprom demanded Ukraine pay an overdue gas bill urgently on
Tuesday, raising fears of a new "gas war" and increasing
pressure on Kiev as it tries to build ties with Europe.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the payment
problems as critical, ahead of Kiev's signing next month of
agreements with the European Union which would mark a historic
shift away from former imperial master Moscow.
Using language that harked back to earlier spats in which
Moscow cut off gas to Ukraine, hitting onward deliveries to
Europe, Medvedev told Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller Kiev
had not taken the payments seriously enough in recent talks.
"The (problems) exist and they are absolutely critical," he
said at a government meeting.
Miller said Ukraine had been given until Oct. 1 to pay for
natural gas deliveries in August, but no payment had yet been
received. He said Gazprom had also paid Ukraine $1 billion up
front to pump gas though its territory to Europe.
"The situation with Ukraine's gas payments is coming to the
boil. Ukraine has failed to pay fully for August supply," Miller
told the meeting. Earlier he said he was "extremely concerned".
Ukraine's state oil and gas firm, Naftogaz, declined to
comment on Gazprom's remarks, but Prime Minister Mykola Azarov
said the government was "monitoring the issue".
"This primarily is a question concerning two companies and
they have to sort things out," Azarov's press service said.
WARNING OF GAS WAR RISK
Russia and Ukraine have waged two gas wars over prices in
the winters of 2006 and 2009, with Moscow halting deliveries not
only to Ukraine but to the rest of Europe, forcing some in the
European Union to seek alternative sources of energy.
President Vladimir Putin wants Ukraine to join a Moscow-led
customs union and Russia has put pressure on its neighbour,
which faces large payments to service its debt over the next 18
months, by tightening customs rules and banning some imports.
Earlier this year, Russia hinted that gas prices which Kiev
has called "exorbitant" could be cut if it joined the customs
union, which unites Russia with two other former Soviet
republics, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Medvedev said Russia could resort to a system of advance
payments if Ukraine did not respond to its demands.
"There is a danger of a new gas war with Ukraine, where the
economy is struggling," said Sergei Vakhrameyev, an analyst with
Ankorinvest brokerage in Moscow.
"The situation of past years, when gas flows to Europe
halted could be repeated again."
Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich met in the
Black Sea resort of Sochi on Sunday for bilateral talks,
although neither side has commented on what was discussed.
Ukraine, which imports nearly all its gas from Russia, pays
about $400 per 1,000 cubic metres, slightly higher than the
average price paid by European customers.
Naftogaz said earlier this month it had 17 billion cubic
metres of gas in storage, enough to get through the winter.
Gazprom ships more than half of its gas to Europe via
Ukraine. This year it aims to increase exports to Europe, where
it provides a quarter of gas needs, to 152 billion cubic metres
from 138 bcm last year.