Russia repeats threat to cut off gas

Russian authorities refused to ease their tough stance in a politically charged dispute with Ukraine over &to=' target=_blank>gas prices Friday, threatening again to halt supplies to its neighbor on New Year's Day and criticizing Kiev's call for more time reach a deal.

Ukrainian leaders, meanwhile, tried to reassure the ex-Soviet republic's 48 million people they will not be left in the cold by the conflict that has underlined the political tension between the historically linked nations since the election of a West-leaning president in Ukraine last year.

The chief of Russia's natural gas monopoly, &to=' target=_blank>OAO Gazprom, reiterated that it will halt supplies to Ukraine at 10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) Sunday unless a new contract is signed with its Ukrainian counterpart.

"The actions will be precise and resolute," Alexei Miller said grimly, speaking with the swinging pendulum of a grandfather clock serving as the background in footage on Gazprom-owned NTV television. The station cut into a news broadcast to show Miller live.

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