Gazprom blames Ukraine for gas cuts to EU blames Ukraine for gas cuts to EU
Officials at the Russian energy giant Gazprom said Thursday they were "surprised" by reports of a sharp reduction in the amount of its natural gas arriving in EU countries, and blamed it on increased consumption in Ukraine and elsewhere, DPA reported.
"Ukraine, which controls transit pipes carrying gas to Europe, right now is consuming gas at volumes ... well above levels allowed by contract," Alexander Medvedev, general director of Gazprom Export, in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.
On Tuesday, Gazprom had said it was reducing gas deliveries to some individual EU countries to cope with extreme high demand across the region. Supplies along the key Yamal-Europe line crossing Belarus to Poland fell 10 per cent, Interfax reported, citing Gazprom officials.
But on Thursday Austrian energy group OMV said some 30 per cent less gas was reaching Austria via a pipeline which also supplies Italy. Italian gas transportation operator Snam Rete Gas reported that deliveries of Russian gas were down 20 per cent.
Medvedev called the reports of shortages "confusing."
The dispute comes as Europe experiences an extreme cold snap. In Russia, natural gas consumption reached record levels on Thursday, the Interfax news agency reported.
Despite the short-term cuts to EU nations announced by Gazprom this week, Medvedev said Thursday that: "... our company has raised exports of gas to the maximum not just to European countries but to Belarus and Ukraine."
Meanwhile, Ukraine's state-owned natural gas transportation company Naftohaz Ukrainy denied that the country had been tapping more Russian gas than contracted.
"The increased use of natural gas in Ukraine, which is connected with the severe frosts, is being filled exclusively by drawing gas from Ukrainian underground reservoirs," the company said in a statement.
All Russian gas contracted to pass through Ukraine for EU customers was being transferred westward in full volume, it added.
Austria said it was also able to compensate for the shortage by tapping gas reserves and local production.
Russia provides EU nations with roughly one quarter of their natural gas needs. Some 70 per cent of that fuel arrives via pipelines crossing Ukraine.
Russian gas deliveries to Europe have been halted twice, in mid-winter in 2006 and 2009. The halt in both cases stemmed from gas pricing disputes between Ukraine and Russia, with nations in the EU's east and south worst hit by downstream shortages.
Both countries since then have promised to do their part to provide uninterrupted supplies of natural gas to the EU.