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Russia involved in anti-protest operations, Kiev says

Gazprom hikes Ukraine gas price for second time in two days

03 April, 16:02
Russia involved in anti-protest operations, Kiev says (ANSA) - Kiev, April 3 - Ukraine on Thursday accused members of Russia's secret service of involvement in the violent repression of anti-government protesters in Kiev in February.

The demonstrations, in which dozens of people were killed, led to the ouster of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and Russia's annexation of Ukraine's strategic Crimea peninsula the following month.

The new head of Ukraine's security service Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said 26 Russian Federal Security Service (Fsb) operatives had been involved in planning and carrying out operations against the protesters. The Fsb also sent "tonnes" of explosives and weapons by plane to Ukraine, he added.

The Fsb immediately denied the accusations.

"These statements remain on the conscience of the Ukrainian security services," the Fsb press office said. The Ukrainian authorities also said the killing of protesters in and around Kiev's central Maidan square took place "under the direct leadership" of President Yanukovych, who is now in Russia.

The accusations came as the Ukrainian authorities arrested a dozen former members of Berkut, the country's now disbanded anti-riot forces.

"They belonged to what was known as a 'black' unit, devoted to special operations," said Ukraine's new prosecutor general Oleg Makhnitski, accusing them of "distributing weapons including the snipers' guns".

Meanwhile Russia continued to squeeze Kiev's fledgling government on Thursday by further raising the price of gas supplies to Ukraine.

Alexiei Miller, CEO of Russian energy giant Gazprom, announced a new price of $485 per 1,000 cubic metres, the second hike in just two days.

On Tuesday Miller said the state-owned company was scrapping a discount awarded to Yanukovych in December after he ditched an agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia, raising the price of gas from $268.5 to $385.5 per 1,000 cubic metres.

On that occasion the Gazprom chief said the price hike was due to Ukraine's inability to pay down its debts, which on Tuesday were said to be in the region of $1.7 billion.

On Thursday Miller said Kiev now owed Gazprom $2.2 billion.

Also on Thursday, the European parliament voted to slash customs duties on imports from Ukraine. The measure, which eliminates around 98% of existing duties, should save Ukrainian firms around 487 million euros per year.