- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat Thursday to cut off the natural gas supplies to Ukraine sparked outraged from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, who called the move “extortion.”

“Threatening to turn off the spigot of natural gas to Ukraine is nothing but extortion playing out on the global stage,” said Mr. Upton, Michigan Republican. “This shameful act of defiance by Putin underscores the growing need for Congress to act on LNG [liquified natural gas] exports.”

He called for quick passage of a bill by Rep Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, that would help expedite the export of U.S. liquified natural gas to allied countries, including Ukraine and other Eastern European nations that rely heavily on natural gas imports from Russia.

Mr. Putin said in a letter to European leaders that Ukraine must pay in advance for its next shipment, or else the flow of natural gas will be cut off June 1. Ukraine currently owes a $3.5 billion gas bill to Russian state-controlled Gazprom.

The threat increased pressure on the struggling Ukraine government, as Moscow presses it to accept an international peace plan that would settle unrest in Ukraine’s pro-Russian east.

Russia has chosen to wield its energy resources as a geopolitical weapon to inflict harm on others,” Mr. Upton said. “As the world’s emerging energy superpower, America has a newfound responsibility to help our allies. I look forward to a strong vote on the House floor and urge the Senate to take action on this critical issue.”