Ukraine Admits Withholding Russian Gas Meant for Europe

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian Naftogaz official has admitted Kiev has been withholding some Russian natural gas exports meant for customers in Europe, where several countries have reported falls in gas supplies amid a severe cold weather snap.

A worker checks gas pipelines in the Transit Divison Velke Kapusany by the Slovakia-Ukraine border

“We have in fact allowed the withholding of gas in excess of the contract during the past day,” an official with Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP.

However, he declined to say how much gas Ukraine — which transports the vast majority of Russian gas exports to Europe — was using over and above its agreed contract with Moscow.

“But we are certain that according to monthly totals, Ukraine will withhold exactly the volume agreed with Gazprom,” the official said.

Earlier, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov denied charges by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom giant that Kiev was withholding European supplies.

Although gas consumption in Ukraine has risen to record levels because of a severe cold snap gripping the country, “the increase of gas use in Ukraine has not at all affected the carrying out of our transport obligations,” spokesman Valentin Mondrievsky told AFP.

Russia’s state-owned Gazprom monopoly on Monday admitted for the first time that it was not entirely fulfilling its contractual obligations to clients abroad because Ukraine was retaining some of the exports.

“You can call it withholding or taking, legal or illegal — call it whatever you like,” Gazprom’s deputy chief Alexander Medvedev said.

“But what is happening is that gas is remaining in Ukraine at higher volumes than envisioned. This prevents us from fully fulfilling our obligations to our foreign customers,” he said.

Around 80 percent of Gazprom’s exports to Europe pass through a pipeline network located on Ukrainian territory.

Temperatures in some parts of the country have plunged to lower than minus 30 C (minus 22 F), placing the country’s energy systems under enormous strain.

The Ukrainian premier said Ukraine had consumed a record 407 million cubic meters of gas in the past day, some 43 percent more than during an average winter day when temperatures hover around 0 C (32 F).

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have persisted over a new gas pricing deal signed by the two sides on Jan. 4 that resulted in the near-doubling of the price Ukraine pays for natural gas.

European countries including Italy, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia and Romania have recently reported drops in supplies of gas shipped to them by Gazprom.

Bosnia said Monday its supplies had been curtailed by one-fourth for the past five days.

Gazprom’s travails were compounded Sunday when explosions on a section of pipeline in southern Russia halted gas supplies to another ex-Soviet republic, Georgia, where President Mikhail Saakashvili accused Moscow of deliberate disruption to his country’s energy supply.

The company used an alternative pipeline route through neighboring Azerbaijan to restore some supplies to Georgia on Monday.

Gazprom had previously stated that it was fulfilling all of its basic gas delivery obligations to clients in Europe but was not in a position to meet their demands over and above those obligations, due to severe cold weather gripping Russia and soaring demand at home.

Source: MosNews