Ukraine Warns Europe of Russian Gas Cut-off, Moscow Denies

August 28, 2014

Ukraine warned Europe on Wednesday that Russia could cut off gas to the continent this winter, but Moscow responded that the supply of gas would continue regardless of politics, Reuters reports.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said Kiev knew of Russian plans to halt gas flows this winter to Europe, comments that were promptly denied by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

"The situation in (Ukraine's) energy sector is difficult. We know of Russia's plans to block (gas) transit even to European Union countries this winter, and that's why their (EU) companies were given an order to pump gas into storage in Europe as fully as possible," Yatseniuk told a government meeting, without disclosing how he knew about the Russian plans.

Russia has halted gas flows to Ukraine, a major transit route for EU gas, three times in the past decade in 2006, 2009 and since June this year because of price disputes with Kiev.

In the past Russia's Gazprom has insisted it has been a reliable supplier to the European Union, its biggest market, and that flows to Europe were disrupted in 2006 and 2009 only after Ukraine took some of the gas intended for the EU to meet its own winter demand.

Ukraine's warning came less than 24 hours after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko and Europe's main energy diplomat, Guenther Oettinger, which included talks to secure Russian gas flows during the peak winter months.

Novak called Yatseniuk's comment a "groundless attempt to intentionally mislead or misinform European consumers of Russian gas".

He added, "We will put forth maximum efforts to fulfil gas contract obligations to European importers regardless of political issues in this or that transit country."

Russia is open to "constructive dialogue" on energy with interested partners including Ukraine, he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday Russia is and will be a reliable supplier of natural gas to Europe.

"Russia was, is and will be a reliable supplier of energy resources to Europe," Peskov told journalists, "We hope that Ukraine in turn will guarantee unhindered transit."

A Russian ministry source said Ukraine would be more likely to start taking gas intended for the European Union to meet its own needs than Russia would be to cut off supplies to Europe.

Gazprom declined immediate comment.

Copyright 2014. Reuters