Ukraine said yesterday (23 July) it was receiving less gas via reverse flows from the European Union, which Energy Minister Yuri Prodan blamed on reluctance by firms within the EU to antagonise Russian gas producer Gazprom, a heavy critic of the flows.

Ukraine uses around 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year and has increased efforts to secure more gas from the EU after Gazprom raised prices for its supplies in a spat which has added to the crisis in the ex-Soviet state.

Russia covered half of Ukraine's gas needs last year. On 16 June, it halted supplies to Ukraine over price disagreements and Kyiv's outstanding debt for earlier deliveries.

>> Read: Russia cuts off gas, Ukraine secures borders

Prodan said on Wednesday that Ukraine first noticed the decline in deliveries from Europe some two weeks ago, and that reverse supplies stood at 7 million cubic metres (mcm) daily on Wednesday, versus a possible 18 million.

That compares to supplies of 16 mcm daily via reversed flows from the EU in June, including 12 mcm from Hungary, according to Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz.

"Reverse gas supplies are reduced at present. This is linked to certain actions by Gazprom," Prodan told reporters. "You heard the threats Gazprom made to European energy companies that this reverse is illegal."

Gazprom declined to comment yesterday. In April, the company voiced doubts over the legality of reversed gas flows from the West to substitute for Russian supplies.

Gazprom head Alexei Miller said his company could curb supplies to Europe via Ukraine over reversed flows and denounced such movements as "semi-fraudulent".

>> Read: Russia tells West reverse gas flows are ‘illegal’

On Wednesday, Naftogaz said flows from Poland were proceeding as usual, but were lower from Hungary, which was filling its own storage. It did not attach blame to Gazprom.

"We hope the lowering of reverse flows is temporary," Naftogaz head Andriy Kobolev told a briefing. "This is unpleasant, but not critical."

On 28 April, Bratislava and Ukraine signed a deal allowing the EU to send a limited amount of gas to Ukraine. Bratislava said combined reverse flows from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland could reach up to around 16-17 bcm annually.

>> Read: Slovakia takes step to reverse gas to Ukraine

Naftogaz also said in June it hoped to be receiving 27 mcm of gas daily from Slovakia, when the reverse flows start in September.

EurActiv asked the Commission on Thursday (23 July) to comment on the statement by Prodan. It was told that Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger would meet with Prodan Thursday (24 July)  and that reverse gas flows would be discussed among other pressing issues. The Commission is also in contact with gas companies and transmission system operators, EurActiv was told.