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Putin warns Europe about Ukraine gas debt

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Photo - Russian national flags fly above barricades with a road sign "Stop" with an Orthodox icon in front of an entrance of the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the Russian border, Ukraine, Thursday, April 10, 2014. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that the standoff in Luhansk and the two neighboring Russian-leaning regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv must be resolved within two days. (AP Photo/Igor Golovniov)
Russian national flags fly above barricades with a road sign "Stop" with an Orthodox icon in front of an entrance of the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the Russian border, Ukraine, Thursday, April 10, 2014. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that the standoff in Luhansk and the two neighboring Russian-leaning regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv must be resolved within two days. (AP Photo/Igor Golovniov)
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DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Vladimir Putin is telling European leaders that Ukraine's growing gas debts to Moscow can threaten supplies to Europe, according to his press secretary.

Dmitry Peskov told state news agency RIA Novosti Thursday that Putin "expressed his utmost concern" to European leaders about the growing gas debts of Ukraine, which Moscow says owes Russia over $16 billion. Peskov did not otherwise discuss Putin's message, but said it contained "urgent measures, as the situation requires no delay."

The move is designed to exert economic pressure on Europe, which receive a large portion of its gas from Russia through Ukraine. Putin has tightened the economic screws on the cash-strapped Kiev government since it came to power in February, when its Russia-leaning president fled the country after months of protest.

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