Putin orders cut in Ukraine supply

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, yesterday ordered Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, to reduce gas supplies to Ukraine bound for Europe in a move that escalates the dispute between the two countries, writes Isabel Gorst in Moscow .

Gazprom claims Kiev has been stealing gas from transit pipelines since it cut off supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after talks about a new gas deal collapsed.

Mr Putin ordered Alexei Miller, chief executive of Gazprom, to cut supplies to the Ukrainian transit system by the same volume as Ukraine had taken.

Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company, said it had been notified by Gazprom that it would cut transit supplies to Europe by 65.3m cubic metres a day to 221.8m cubic metres per day. “Gazprom has in fact cut volumes of transit gas to European customers,” Naftogaz said.

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Nine European countries hit by gas shortages amid Russia-Ukraine row

A Ukrainian worker at a gas storage and transit point in Boyarka, outside Kiev (Sergei Chuzavkov/AP)

Nine countries in and around Europe have now reported problems with their gas supply as a result of Russia’s dispute with the Ukraine, after Slovakia, Greece and Croatia today disclosed they were experiencing drops in gas pressure.

The development comes as an emergency mission from the European Commission in Brussels and the Czech Presidency of the EU left this morning, bound for Kiev for talks with the Ukrainian authorities as the international crisis deepened.

The delegation of Czech diplomats and senior European officials also plans to meet senior officials from Gazprom, the Russian state gas monopoly, which cut supplies to Ukraine on January 1

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Russia cuts gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills

Gazprom chief executive says full gas shipments to European Union will continue uninterrupted

Russia cut natural gas deliveries to Ukraine today after negotiations failed to resolve a dispute over unpaid bills and the price for supplies this year.

Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas provider, lowered pressure at 7am GMT in pipelines to Ukraine which also carry in transit about 80% of Russian gas consumed by other countries in Europe.

Ukraine said yesterday that it had paid $1.5bn (£1bn) in debts for supplies in November and December but Gazprom said it had not received that money from RosUkrEnergo, an intermediary company. It is also demanding a further $600m in fines which Ukraine said it is not yet prepared to pay.

The last time exports were terminated – in January 2006 – there was an immediate impact elsewhere in Europe as Ukraine allegedly siphoned off gas meant for onward transit. But the Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller, said it would continue full shipments to the European Union, which gets about a quarter of its gas from the Russian company, most of it through pipelines that cross Ukraine.

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Russia’s new Great Game

Vladimir Putin (left), then the president of Russia, met with Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, in April to discuss arms, energy and debt. AFP

Employing strategies redolent of a new Great Game, Russia has stepped up its diplomatic and trade activities in the Middle East and North Africa in a bid to enhance its geopolitical clout and gain access to, and at least partial control over, the region’s oil and gas reserves.

Among the former global superpower’s tactics: linking arms deals and debt-forgiveness to energy deals.

The strategy has been most apparent in former client states of the ­Soviet Union including Libya, Iraq and Syria, although by no means limited to such countries. Moreover, Moscow has not shied away from courting the authoritarian regimes of countries such as Iran, Syria and Libya that are or have been shunned by the US and other western governments.

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Gazprom Connects to Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller in Teheran, July 13, 2008

Gazprom has signed a memorandum on cooperation in production and transportation of oil and natural gas with the National Iranian Oil Co. The Iranian company, which all other oil companies in the world refuse to work with, is promising Gazprom “a full package of projects.” The memorandum was signed by Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari and NIOC managing director Seifollah Jashnsaz. Gazprom will thus have the chance to strengthen its position in the countries with the world’s second largest gas reserves (proven reserves of 28.13 trillion cu. m.).

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