Ukraine is free to go whatever way the wish to go politically and likewise Russia is free to charge whatever price they want for their Natural Gas. Furthermove, this is hardly extortionism, Russia is only wanting to charge Ukraine the market price. Russia subsidizes gas prices for countries that are effectively her satellites, if Ukraine wants to be a satellite they can get the subsidized rates, if they dont they can pay market price...you can't have your cake and eat it to, they need to make up their mind as to what their priorities are.
Hey GiC, am I allowed to say, I'm totally in agreement with you? lol
May I offer a bit of a different opinion (and quite possibly more paranoid version) of what Parc and Stephen have said.
I do not view this as Russian imperialism at all. I think that is the "Western" media spin on it. I believe when communism fell in Eastern Europe, the West saw Orthodoxy as the bond that could keep Eastern Europe unified (something the West has never been fond of). If you look at the western policies towards Eastern European countries, I think they have manipulated many situations to create artificial divisions between people and nations that should be natural allies.
The Ukraine is a classic example of this. While I agre with Parc, that every nation should have the right to self determination, why has the government in Kiev bent over backwards to accomodated the west at the expense of its relationship with Russia.
In an age when Europe is promoting removing borders along ethnic lines, "the west" is promoting divisions between Russians and Ukrainians. Look at a map of Eastern Europe and how many divisions have been created between Orthodox brothers. Russia vs. Ukraine, Serbia vs. Montenegro, Serbia vs. Macedonia, Russia vs. Belorussia, Greece vs. Macedonia, Bulgaria vs. Macedonia etc...
Some of these divisions might be insignificant today, but then trend has been that the divisions grow, rather than decrease with time.
Again, in my opinion the Ukraine, should naturally look to better relations with Russia for a variety of reasons (geography, language, culture, religion etc) before they look west. I really don't buy the "imperialistic Russia" stuff. I think that is just more western propaganda to convince the masses of something which is in the western interest.