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Russia-Ukraine gas dispute ripples westward

by Megan K. Stack
Los Ange­les Times

Fuel deliv­ery to four Euro­pean coun­tries fell below nor­mal Sat­ur­day as Rus­si­a’s state gas monop­oly with­held nat­ur­al gas from neigh­bor­ing Ukraine for the third con­sec­u­tive day.

Ukraine warned that its gas pipeline sys­tem could expe­ri­ence “seri­ous dis­rup­tions” if a wors­en­ing price dis­pute isn’t set­tled in 10 to 15 days, threat­en­ing short­falls across Europe in the heart of win­ter. Gas flows to Poland, Roma­nia, Hun­gary and Bul­gar­ia, all of which depend on pipelines that cross Ukraine, slumped on Sat­ur­day, offi­cials said.

Ukraine said it had stored up enough nat­ur­al gas reserves to last for months. But experts had warned that the abrupt stop­page of gas to Ukraine could cause pres­sure to dwin­dle in the pipeline sys­tem, cre­at­ing deliv­ery prob­lems for the rest of Europe.

Rus­si­a’s Gazprom said it increased gas flows bound for the rest of Europe through Belarus and Turkey to coun­ter­act any trou­bles.

The Rus­sia-Ukraine stand­off appeared to be wors­en­ing as Gazprom and Ukraine bit­ter­ly blamed one anoth­er for the stalled nego­ti­a­tions and Euro­pean fuel deliv­ery woes. Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Dmit­ry Medvedev on Sat­ur­day approved Gazprom’s plan to sue Ukraine for fail­ing to keep prop­er lev­els of gas mov­ing through its pipelines to the rest of Europe, the com­pa­ny announced.

Ukraine says Rus­sia is at fault for fail­ing to pro­vide enough gas to keep the pipeline sys­tem run­ning smooth­ly.

The Euro­pean Union called an emer­gency meet­ing for Mon­day to dis­cuss the gas trou­bles. The bloc has enough reserves on hand to with­stand the short­falls for now.

About one-fifth of the gas deliv­ered to the Euro­pean Union arrives via pipelines cut­ting through Ukraine.

Talks between Ukraine and Rus­sia have been stalled since nego­ti­a­tions col­lapsed on New Year’s Eve. The two coun­tries remain at odds over the price Ukraine should pay for nat­ur­al gas in 2009, and the amount of tran­sit fees Gazprom will pay Ukraine for allow­ing Russ­ian gas to pass through the coun­try en route to oth­er Euro­pean cus­tomers.

In recent years, feuds over nat­ur­al gas have become a steady and acri­mo­nious fix­ture of Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian rela­tions. In 2006, a sim­i­lar dis­pute drove Rus­sia to cut off gas to Ukraine, caus­ing fuel inter­rup­tions in oth­er parts of Europe and rais­ing sharp con­cerns about Moscow’s reli­a­bil­i­ty as a provider of ener­gy. Still, Europe remains heav­i­ly depen­dent upon Russ­ian fuel.

On Sat­ur­day, Gazprom accused Ukraine of siphon­ing off 35 mil­lion cubic meters of gas a day bound for Europe.

“It’s not us but Ukraine that uses black­mail toward Rus­sia and Europe,” the vice chair­man of Gazprom’s board of direc­tors, Alexan­der Medvedev, told reporters in the Czech Repub­lic, Inter­fax report­ed.

Ukraine’s pro-West­ern pres­i­dent has enraged Rus­sia by push­ing for NATO mem­ber­ship for the for­mer Sovi­et state.

Discussion

One comment for “Russia-Ukraine gas dispute ripples westward”

  1. This is anoth­er exam­ple of how ener­gy is used for dom­i­na­tion. Until we decide to ded­i­cate our resources to ener­gy inde­pen­dence, we the peo­ple will con­tin­ue to be at risk of dom­i­nance by for­eign pow­ers that don’t care too much for our way of life.

    Posted by Bruce Allen | January 30, 2010, 1:53 pm

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