May 16 - Russian gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine could be halted within weeks - in a ''serious threat'' to energy security, according to the Slovakian premier speaking at a summit of Ukraine's European neighbours in Bratislava. Joanna Partridge reports.
Keeping an eye on the situation in Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine. Separatists - who are calling for self-rule - set about building a checkpoint on a major regional highway. As the situation remains tense ahead of presidential elections, the governments of four central European countries which border Ukraine met for talks. Slovakia hosted the leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - who agreed on alternative measures in case the gas supply from Russia stops. Around half of Europe's energy supplies from Russia come through Ukraine. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico discussed the situation with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. SOUNDBITE: SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ROBERT FICO SAYING (Slovak): "I informed the secretary-general about the most recent threat, which is the stoppage of the gas supply through Ukraine. Some member states including Slovakia were informed by President Putin that if Ukraine does not pay for the supplied gas by June 1, 2014, it will not supply to the European area any more." Putin's statement said there'd been a problem with Ukraine's debt for gas and insufficient storage levels. It said there hadn't been any movement towards resolving the issue. Russia's state-controlled Gazprom is demanding pre-payment from Ukraine from the start of June. It says Ukraine already owes $3.5 billion for gas, and will need to pay $1.6 billion for June supplies. But Moscow and Kiev disagree over the gas price, says Alastair McCaig from IG. SOUNDBITE: Alastair McCaig, Market Analyst, IG, saying (English): "Gazprom's basically doubled the price they're charging Ukraine for gas and Ukraine's basically saying if you bring it back down to the previous prices, we'll meet our debt. So a bit of a standoff here, we've got a couple of weeks for it to be resolved. It does look like a bit of grandstanding, a bit of Russian pressure as far as directed towards Ukraine and Ukraine obviously trying to get financing out of the EU and Europe as well." As the disagreement between Moscow and Kiev continues, some Ukrainians are dealing with the situation with humour. A chocolate shop in Lvivi in western Ukraine is producing Putin-shaped treats. The creators don't agree with the pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian soldiers in the east of the country, and are encouraging those with a sweet tooth to bite the head off Putin.