Russia’s Energy Ministry said on Saturday (3 March) that gas giant Gazprom’s intention to terminate contracts with Ukraine poses no immediate threat to natural gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine.
The issue of gas transit has intensified after the Russian group said on Friday it would end the contracts after a Stockholm arbitration court ordered it to pay more than $2.5 billion to Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz.
Gazprom said on Saturday it had started moves to terminate gas supply contracts with Naftogaz, though Kyiv said there had so far been no impact on supplies through its pipelines to Europe.
Gazprom’s announcement marked an escalation in a long-running dispute between Moscow and Kyiv, which has left Ukraine struggling to stay warm and which the EU has said could threaten gas flows across the continent.
Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak told European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič in a phone conversation that gas transit would not be at risk until Gazprom and Naftogaz fully terminated their agreement.
“Minister Novak assured that the gas transit from Russia to Europe is under no threat. The transit remains as reliable as in the past,” the ministry said.
Deputy head of the European Commission for Energy Union M.Shefchovich held a telephone conversation with the head of the Ministry of energy A.Novak, and received assurances that Russia's gas transit to the EU is not in danger. This was reported by a source in the Euro Commission. pic.twitter.com/bXRz64mQiI
— Mr. Vladimir Ivanov (@filmmakerIVANOV) March 4, 2018
Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said on Saturday the group had begun proceedings at the same court to carry out the terminations.
“We have started the procedure of terminating contracts with Ukraine’s Naftogaz,” Medvedev said.
Ukraine’s state-owned gas pipeline operator Ukrtransgaz said on Saturday it had had to take additional measures to ensure gas transit to European customers.
Ukrtransgaz spokesman Ihor Kravchyshyn said it had faced “a critical situation” as Russia had kept pressure at the point connecting to the Ukrainian pipeline system at a low level – at least 20% below that required by transit contracts.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday Ukraine saw an increase in gas supplies from Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, which has fully offset the impact of Gazprom’s decision.
Petro Poroshenko: Period of gas blackmail of our country by Russia has already passed. No one will put Ukraine on its knees — Official website of the President of Ukraine: https://t.co/jylJJSoacu
— Marta Rubel (@MartaRubel) March 4, 2018
Gazprom had intended to resume gas supplies to Ukraine for the first time since late 2015 when Kyiv started buying gas from Europe to try to cut its energy dependence on Moscow. But the Russian group cancelled that plan on Friday.