The Russian premier Vladimir Putin has insisted that Ukraine authorities can no longer rely on the discounted gas prices for Russian imported gas that they have seen over recent years.

Mr Putin apparently feels that the changing political and economic climate in Ukraine means that the country is increasingly able to pay market prices for Russian gas. Mr Putin’s comments will widely be seen as evidence of a hardening of Moscow’s attitude to Kiev in the aftermath of the ‘Orange Revolution’ that brought a pro-western government to power in Ukraine.

However, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Mr Putin as saying that the ongoing dispute over gas prices would not sour relations between the two countries.

Whether that proves to be the case in the longer term remains to be seen however. Reports suggest that Ukraine may respond to the gas price hike by markedly increasing the rent Russia pays to lease military land around the Black Sea port of Sevastapol.

Kiev has also threatened to tap into a pipeline sending Russian gas to Europe without Moscow’s permission in a bid to source the gas it requires. Ukrainian authorities are said to favor a gradual increase in the price it pays to Gazprom for imports, rather than the immediate near-threefold increase Moscow desires.