Russia slashes gas exports to Europe
AFP - Wednesday, January 7
KIEV (AFP) - - Ukraine said Tuesday that Russia had drastically cut gas supplies to Europe and warned of "problems" ahead as several European countries reported that deliveries of Russian gas had stopped.
Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom slashed deliveries of gas bound for Europe by nearly 60 percent, its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz said, as a six-day stand-off between the two countries deepened.
The announcement came a day after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Gazprom to start cutting supplies bound for Europe via Ukraine in retaliation for Ukraine's alleged theft of Russian gas.
Ukraine denies siphoning off Russian gas and has accused Moscow of engineering the crisis.
Meanwhile officials in Sofia reported that deliveries of Russian gas to Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and Turkey had been halted overnight in the latest sign that the dispute is affecting downstream customers in the European Union, and beyond.
And Austria said that deliveries of Russian gas had fallen to 10 percent of the expected amount.
An EU delegation was in Kiev to discuss the crisis with senior Ukrainian officials. The 27-member bloc has yet to take sides in the stand-off, which stems from a bitter payment dispute between the two ex-Soviet countries.
Valentin Zemlyansky, a spokesman for Ukraine's Naftogaz, warned ahead of the meetings that Europe would face "problems" due to the massive Russian gas cut.
"They have reduced deliveries to 92 million cubic metres per 24 hours compared to the promised 221 million cubic metres, without explanation. We do not understand how we will deliver gas to Europe," Zemlyansky told AFP.
"This means that in a few hours problems with supplies to Europe will begin," he added.
In Sofia, the Bulgarian ministry for the economy and energy said that gas supplies for several southeast European countries and Turkey had halted overnight and that it would convene an emergency meeting.
"Deliveries of natural gas at the Bulgarian-Romanian frontier for Bulgargaz, destined for the Bulgarian market and for onward transit towards Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, were stopped at 3:30 am (0130 GMT) Tuesday," a statement said.
In Vienna, Austrian energy company OMV said that deliveries of Russian gas to Austria have fallen to a fraction of the expected amount, adding that it would have to tap into its reserves.
Other EU countries including Hungary and the Czech Republic have also reported shortfalls.
On Monday, Putin met with Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller and ordered him to cut volumes of natural gas shipped through Ukraine by amounts equivalent to those Moscow has accused Ukraine of stealing.
"Start reducing it from today," Putin told Miller during the meeting at his residence outside Moscow.
The Gazprom boss said the company would do its best to make up for the shortfall by sending more gas to Europe through Belarus, Poland and Turkey.
Russia stopped shipping gas to Ukraine's domestic market on January 1 saying Kiev owed it over two billion dollars in unpaid bills and late-payment fines.
The EU depends on Russia for around a quarter of its total gas supplies, some 80 percent of which are pumped through Ukraine. A similar Russia-Ukraine dispute three years ago disrupted supplies across Europe.
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The logo of Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom on January 5. The Russian energy giant has drastically cut gas deliveries via Ukraine, which will disrupt supplies to Europe, Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz has told AFP.
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