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Gazprom has a 'much wider agenda': Naftogaz CEO

Naftogaz CEO on Russia and pre-paid gas

There are ulterior motives behind Gazprom's threats to cut gas supplies to Europe, the chief of Ukraine's state-owned gas firm told CNBC.

"I believe there is definitely a much wider agenda than just gas and business," Andriy Kobolyev, CEO of Naftogaz said on Thursday.

Gazprom warned earlier this week that it would turn off gas flows en-route to Europe if Ukraine failed to pay outstanding accounts.

"With the current level of supplies, prepayments will be enough only up till the end of the week," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told Russian television Thursday, according to Reuters. "If Kyiv doesn't make new payments, then naturally we won't be able to continue supplying Ukraine with gas."

However, Kobolyev told CNBC that the threat of a cut-off in supply has a geopolitical angle.

"Gazprom is trying to cut the gas supply to the EU to make sure that Ukraine will not be able to source enough gas from that market," he said.

"It's quite a costly strategy, it's very inefficient, because there are always other suppliers who would be willing to replace Gazprom gas."

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Andriy Kobolyev, chief executive officer of Naftogaz
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Kobolyev stressed that the pricing of unpaid invoices was settled at the end of 2014. He expects the issue to be settled through further arbitration in Stockholm.

Ukraine's Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has said he eventually wants to cut Russia out of the Ukraine gas market. Kobolyev said these plans are feasible, given the volumes already being purchased from other suppliers.

"Two-thirds of gas are purchased from the EU," Kobolyev said. "So that's already happening."

Gazprom's warning came a week after Naftogaz halted gas supplies to the rebel-held regions in the east of Ukraine last Wednesday. It said its transport networks had already suffered extensive damage and wouldn't resume flows due to "ongoing hostilities."

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A peace deal with Russia signed earlier this month had sparked some hope of an end to the violence. However, conflict in the key battleground of Debaltseve, in the Donbass region, has continued.

"It's quite difficult for economy as a whole, and we see decline in industrial consumption, not only in the eastern part of Ukraine, but in many other part of the country," Kobolyev added.

"Because when the country is torn by war there aren't many who want to invest, who want to do business… it's a huge problem."

–CNBC's Matt Clinch contributed to this article