Russia says completes gas cut-off to Ukraine
Updated: 2006-01-01 14:49
Russia's Gazprom said on Sunday it had cut exports of
natural gas to Ukraine over a price row, and Ukraine's gas company said exports
via Ukraine to western Europe could be hit as a result.
spokesman said Russian gas shipped for Ukrainian consumption had been cut by 120
million cubic metres a day.
Russia continued to supply 360 million cubic
metres to western Europe via Ukrainian territory, but Ukraine's Naftogaz said
those volumes could be affected by the Gazprom supply cut.
Earlier on Sunday Gazprom said it had begun reducing pressure in
the pipeline supplying Ukraine after Kiev refused to pay the increased amount Moscow was
demanding for its gas and last-ditch efforts failed to resolve the price row.
"In this situation, which
is the fault of the Ukrainian side, we have been forced to start reducing
pressure in the pipeline to Ukraine," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told a
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks
during a meeting of the Security Council at the presidential residence in
Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow December 31, 2005. Putin on Saturday told gas
monopoly Gazprom to supply Ukraine with gas at 2005 prices for the first
three months of next year if Kiev signed a new contract for market prices
from April. [Reuters]
Gazprom supplies 25 percent of western Europe's gas -- most of it via
Ukraine. It insisted deliveries to western Europe would not be affected but
Italy's gas importer said Gazprom had warned it disruption was possible.
Though Russia says it is purely a business dispute, the gas cut-off has fed
concern from Washington to Berlin that the Kremlin is prepared to use its
control over its massive energy resources as a political weapon.
Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko has irked many in Moscow by trying
to take his ex-Soviet state on Russia's western border into NATO and the
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko
(L) and Oleksiy Ivchenko, head of state-run gas provider Naftogaz Ukrainy,
stand in the control centre of Ukraine's pipeline operator in Kiev
December 31, 2005. [Reuters]
And that, say Ukrainian officials, is why the Kremlin is punishing Kiev with
such a huge price increase while letting more Moscow-friendly ex-Soviet states
such as Belarus go on paying far less for Russian gas.
Moscow took over the rotating G8 chairmanship from Britain on New Year's Day.
It is the first time Russia has had the role and one of the main themes of its
tenure will be security of energy supply.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered late on Saturday to postpone the
price increases until April if Ukraine agreed to the new terms, but Gazprom said
that offer was rejected.
The reduction in pipeline pressure
effectively means the Russian gas allotted for Ukraine's consumption is being
taken out of the pipeline system.
Chief executive of Russian gas monopoly
Gazprom, Alexei Miller, speaks during a meeting of the Security Council at
the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow December 31, 2005.
Moscow insists this will leave enough gas to continue supplying western
Europe as normal -- provided Ukraine does not dip into supplies being pumped
further afield. Eighty percent of Russian gas exports to western Europe pass
Gazprom said if supplies to western Europe are disrupted, it will be Ukraine
that is to blame.
"We were ready to meet the Ukrainian people halfway ... We received a
refusal," Kupriyanov said. "That means the Ukrainian authorities were determined
to have a conflict from the start, and from January 1 to ... start stealing gas
from European consumers."
Italian oil and gas firm Eni said
it had been warned by Gazprom that supplies could be disrupted. Central European
states set up contingency plans. Poland said it had at least a week's reserves
of gas to guard against supply interruptions.
Graphic showing distribution of gas pipelines in
The EU has called a January 4 meeting of energy officials from its member
states to work out a common approach.
Moscow is seeking a rise in the price of gas it sells to Ukraine to $230 per
1,000 cubic metres from the current $50 -- a level that reflects Soviet-era
Ukraine agrees in principle but wants a transitional period.
Ukrainian officials accuse Moscow of using the issue to punish Kiev for
seeking integration with the West a year after mass protests helped propel
Yushchenko to a presidential election victory -- beating a Kremlin-backed
Putin's period in office has been marked by an increasingly assertive foreign
policy that appears aimed at regaining some of the influence Moscow has lost in
former Soviet republics since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ukraine not feeling gas cut-off yet: ministry
Ukraine has not yet noticed lowered pressure in
its gas pipeline system, a Ukrainian energy ministry spokesman said after
Russian energy giant Gazprom announced it had started to cut off supplies to
"We haven't felt anything yet, everything's fine here," a Ukrainian energy
ministry official told AFP, without providing further details.
Ukrainian authorities have not published an official comment on Gazprom's
Officials said earlier that the country had enough reserves to ensure
ordinary people do not suffer during the cold winter months but some companies
could be affected.