Ukraine's prime minister has accused local officials of causing a crisis that has left hundreds of thousands without heating in freezing weather.
The crisis, which affects mostly Ukraine's center, south and southeast, came after national gas company Naftagaz raised gas prices that some struggling municipalities said were impossibly high for them to pay. Naftagaz has said it will resume supply to utilities companies and powers stations only after they clear the debts or pay for supplies in advance.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman yesterday laid the blame on local officials for failing to resolve the disputes and said the parliament should consider firing them.
Angry Ukrainians took to the streets and blocked roads Tuesday as hundreds of thousands remain without heating at a time when temperatures are plunging. Residents in Kryvy Rih, a city of 600,000 in Ukraine's southeast, on Monday set tires on fire and seized the building of the local gas company demanding that the heating be turned on.
Ukraine is struggling with a flagging economy and a separatist conflict in the east which is weighing down on the nation's finances. One of the conditions for the International Monetary Fund to continue providing Ukraine with loans was to increase gas prices by 23 percent starting Nov. 1. Bills for hot water and heating are expected to increase by another 15 percent on Dec. 1. The Ukrainian government stopped buying gas from Russia following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, citing unreasonably high prices. As a result Ukraine started to buy gas from European companies, some of which resell the gas they buy from Russia.