Russia ordered a cut in natural gas supplies to the EU via Ukraine yesterday (5 January) over a payments dispute. But EU representatives meeting at short notice played down the repercussions of the decision for Europe.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller to reduce supplies by 65.3 million cubic metres to make up for the amount of gas it accuses Ukraine of stealing from supplies destined for Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal. Further cuts should be expected when more details emerge regarding the amount stolen, he warned.
Ukraine, which has not received any Russian gas since 1 January 2009, denied stealing from the pipelines running across its territory and accused Russia of failing to deliver enough gas.
The latest Russian move has seen supplies to Europe reduced to a third of their normal rate, Ukraine's state energy company said today, warning that the impact on European supplies would become visible in a matter of hours.
So far, the EU has insisted that there is no immediate threat to Russian gas flows to European consumers. Nevertheless, nine European countries have reported disruptions in supply, with Slovakia, Croatia and Greece joining a group of six countries which first reported disruptions (EurActiv 05/01/09).
Yesterday, EU national envoys met in Brussels under the auspices of the Czech EU Presidency to forge a common response to the situation, while Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Medveded was in Paris for talks.
A Czech spokesperson insisted that the gas supply to EU consumers was not under threat. He added that member countries had been able to compensate for any drops in supply by tapping into gas reserves, gas stocks and other supply routes.
However, the Czech representative called on Moscow and Kiev to solve their conflict as soon as possible.
Gazprom said it would pump more gas through alternative routes via Belarus and Turkey to ensure European supplies were not affected.