Putin says hold off on making Kiev pay in advance for gas

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told state-controlled natural gas producer Gazprom on Wednesday to hold off on making Ukraine pay up front for gas from Russia.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a government meeting there were grounds for shifting to advance payments for Kiev, which owes Moscow $2.2 billion for gas and failed to meet a deadline this week to pay its March bill.

But Putin said Gazprom should seek consultations with the European Union first.

"Taking into account the complex situation in Ukraine and the fact that we have not yet finished talks with the EU, I would ask Gazprom and the government to hold off on such a possibility," the president said.

He said Russia and the EU had agreed to discuss Ukraine's moves towards closer cooperation with the 28-nation bloc.

Relations between Kiev and Moscow are in crisis following the ouster of Ukraine's Moscow-backed president on February 22 and Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine a month later.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, writing by Vladimir Soldatkin, editing by Timothy Heritage)