The Russian energy company Gazprom cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Monday, claiming Ukraine owes the company $4.5 billion. Tensions between the two countries have reached a boiling point — over the weekend, Ukraine's foreign minister reportedly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "dickhead."
Gazprom says cutting off the gas is more about getting paid and less about escalating political tensions between Moscow and Kiev. But Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk disagrees. He said in a statement Monday, "This is not about gas. This is a general plan for the destruction of Ukraine."
Pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane on Saturday, killing 49 people, the deadliest single incident so far in Ukraine's battle against armed separatists. The attack led many Ukrainians to protest at the Russian embassy in Ukraine on Saturday, which is where Ukranian foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsia made his fateful comment.
Deshchytsia allegedly tried to quell the protests, but he expressed sympathy for the cause. "Did I say that I am against you protesting? I am for you protesting. I am ready to be here with you and say 'Russia, get out of Ukraine'. Yes, Putin is a dickhead," he reportedly told the crowd. According to the International Business Times, "Putin khulio" has become a "rallying cry" among anti-Russian Ukrainians. "Khulio" is Russian for "dickhead" or "fucker."
Gazprom has been putting economic pressure on Ukraine since March, when it cut gas supplies to the country by 50 percent. According to The New York Times, today marks the third time Gazprom has cut off gas over a political or financial dispute with Ukraine in recent years. Gazprom spokesman Sergie Kupriyanov told reporters Monday, "Gazprom supplies to Ukraine only the amount that has been paid for, and the amount that has been paid for is zero."