Gazprom Reignites Dispute With Ukraine

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia reopened its natural gas dispute with Ukraine on Monday as the Russian state monopoly Gazprom all but accused Kiev of stealing gas and reducing onward supplies to Europe amid an intense cold wave across Eastern Europe.

Gazprom deputy chairman of the board Alexander Medvedev

"We can call it gas shrinkage, offtake, legal or illegal, whatever," Gazprom's export chief, Alexander Medvedev, said during a sharp attack on Ukraine broadcast on Russian state television.

"But what is happening in reality is that gas is being held by Ukraine above agreed levels, which is not allowing us to fully meet our obligations with international buyers," he said. "We can't work like that."

Ukraine, a critical transit route for Russia's huge supplies to Europe, said that it was meeting its obligations.

But Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov of Ukraine also acknowledged the country was burning more domestic gas because of the cold weather in which temperatures in Kiev alone slumped to minus 25 Celsius, or minus 13 Fahrenheit, on Monday.

If Ukraine is consuming more natural gas, European importers might find supplies stretched further later this week since it will take several days before they feel the impact.

Gazprom supplies one quarter of Europe's gas needs and several of its customers, including in Italy and Hungary, have complained about reduced supplies over the past week.

"We will do everything to cut our domestic consumption," Yekhanurov said.

"Yesterday, Ukraine consumed 407 million cubic meters of gas and our Russian partners are nervous because of it," he told reporters, referring to consumption on Sunday.

Ukraine was using around 280 million cubic meters, or 9,900 cubic feet, a day at the start of the year, when temperatures were much milder.

Source: International Herald Tribune