Putin asks European leaders for financial assistance with Ukraine's natural gas crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Kremlin. (AP Photo)

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's President Vladimir Putin has sent a letter to 18 European leaders urging them to offer quick financial assistance to Ukraine to prevent a shutdown of Russian natural gas to much of Europe.

In a letter released Thursday by the Kremlin, Putin warned that Ukraine's mounting gas debt is forcing Moscow to start demanding advance payments for Russian gas supplies.

He warned that if Ukraine fails to make such payments, Russia's state-controlled gas giant Gazprom will "completely or partially cease gas deliveries."

Putin told the leaders that a possible shutdown of Russian gas supplies will increase the risk of Ukraine siphoning off gas intended for Europe and will make it difficult to accumulate sufficient reserves for next winter.