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4 Mar, 2008 15:23

Ukraine fails to rule out EU gas cuts

Kiev is warning it may disrupt gas supplies to Europe if Russia continues to reduce the amount of gas it pumps to Ukraine. At 8 pm Moscow time Gazprom cut the gas flow to Ukraine by another 25 per cent – in addition to Monday's cut. Russian gas

Ukraine's state-owned gas company Naftogaz has not ruled out cutting supplies to Western Europe.

“Naftogaz Ukraine will try its best not to interrupt gas supplies to European consumers despite Gazprom's actions as long as it does not endanger Ukraine's energy security and Ukrainian consumers. If we see continued pressure from Gazprom, our response will be adequate and asymmetric,” Naftogaz spokesman Valentin Zelensky said.

The announcement came after Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom said it would halve its normal supplies to Ukraine over unpaid debts – a threat it carried out on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Gazprom has dismissed the claims, saying the gas transit contract has nothing to do with its deliveries to Ukraine. Gazprom insists Ukraine continues its deliveries to European customers in full.

“We have a contract for transporting gas via Ukraine’s territory, and Ukraine should fulfill its obligations under this contract regardless of whether Naftogaz reaches an agreement with RosUkrEnergo about gas supplies to Ukraine or not. These are two different contracts, two different subjects, and we should by no means confuse them. Obligations under our transit contracts should be fulfilled,” said Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov.

He promised that Gazprom would supply all the gas required by consumers in Europe, and that Ukraine’s Naftogaz was expected to fulfill its part of the deal.

“Gazprom will do everything necessary to ensure that our consumers in Europe receive all the gas they should receive,” Kupriyanov stated.

Russia's gas monopoly also threatened to apply further reductions unless it sees progress in the unpaid debt dispute

Meanwhile, the European Commission is growing concerned about possible problems with the EU's gas supply and is urging Moscow and Kiev to resolve their differences quickly.

Deputy Executive Director at the International Energy Agency, William Ramsay, says the details of the dispute are not the concern of gas consumers.

“What we are saying is there are gas contracts between European consumers and Russia, and it’s important for Russia and Ukraine to keep their commercial disputes out of the pipes of the downstream customers,” Ramsay told RT.

Gazprom started applying pressure on Monday morning when it made its first cut of 25 per cent. As a result of the threatened second 25 per cent cut, due to be implemented at 8pm on Tuesday, Ukrainian consumers will receive half the volume needed for the country.

Much of the gas that Western Europe buys from Russia comes from pipelines that cross Ukraine.

Gas row background

On February 12 the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents agreed to sign a new gas deal, which would have meant the formation of a joint venture between Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

But Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Yulia Timoshenko, who's in charge of preparing documents for the agreement, insists on buying gas directly from the Russian giant. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister, Aleksandr Turchinov, has accused Gazprom of not paying for gas transit to Europe since December 2007.