MOSCOW, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that European countries have become hostages of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine.
"Our European partners have become hostages of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. But this dispute is about the terms and pricing of gas supplies for Ukraine itself," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying during a meeting with his counterparts from Bulgaria, Moldova and Slovakia.
The European heads of government were in Moscow to discuss the current gas row that has caused an acute shortage of heating fuel in some European states.
Putin warned that no transit country has the right to "abuse its transit position and speculate on it by taking consumers hostage."
Fierce bickering between Ukraine and Russia broke out on Jan. 1over gas pricing and transit fees, leaving more than a dozen European countries in a crisis as Russia cut off gas supplies via Ukraine to Europe on Jan. 7.
Russia reopened its gas taps to Europe on Tuesday morning under a three-way agreement signed by the European Union (EU), Ukraine and Russia, but no gas reached Europe.
Russia accused Ukraine of blocking the gas flow and the EU also admitted that Ukraine had held up the flow to Europe, while Ukraine argued that Russia's choice of the gas route was technically "unacceptable" as it would require Ukraine to cut domestic consumers out before it could deliver gas to the Balkans.
As much as a quarter of natural gas consumed in Europe is imported from Russia, and 80 percent of it is shipped through Ukraine.