The Russians want Ukraine back. Strategy: starve and humiliate them into attacking. Hey, it worked against the Japanese for the USA, and against the Germans for the UK.
Gazprom shut off Ukraine's gas supply last Thursday after saying it had missed $2 billion in payments. It acknowledged that Ukraine may have paid part of that amount, but said that still leaves Kiev $614 million in debt. Ukraine denied owing the money and is currently meeting its domestic needs with supplies from storage facilities.
Russia is the world's biggest producer of natural gas and supplies Europe with more than 40 percent of its imports -- mainly via the pipelines through Ukraine.
Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Germany did not blame either side in the dispute for the cuts -- only the dispute itself.
Conveniently in the midst of winter, this gives all sides a pretense under which they can do something stupid and retributive.