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Ukraine expects Russia to halt Europe gas supplies via Ukrainian pipelines: PM

By Alexander Bor in Kiev

August 27, 2014 - Russia plans to stop natural gas supplies to the European Union via Ukrainian pipelines during the high-demand season, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said August 27.

He said Russian companies have been increasingly accumulating gas in European gas storage facilities to prepare for the likely disruption of gas supplies.

"Russia's actions threaten both the global military security, and global energy security," Yatseniuk said during a government meeting.

"We know about Russia's plans to block the transit [of gas] even to the EU," Yatseniuk said. "And for this reason their [Russian] companies have been instructed to maximum accumulate gas into in the [storage facilities] in Europe."

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This is the third time that a top Ukrainian official has warned about the likely disruption of Russian gas supplies to Europe over the past three weeks.

Yatseniuk's comments come a day after a meeting between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Minsk.

The meeting was aimed at diffusing tensions between the two countries caused by escalating fighting in eastern regions of Ukraine as the government's forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine, the US and the EU have accused Russia of stoking the pro-Russian rebellion by sending trained militants and heavy weapons across the border. Moscow denied any involvement.

The fighting recently escalated as the Ukrainian forces captured a unit of 10 Russian army soldiers in the area. Russia said the unit lost its way and entered Ukraine by mistake.

Putin, Poroshenko

Poroshenko and Putin, joined by European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, agreed on August 26 that the two governments should continue negotiations to normalize relations in the gas sector.

Oettinger will join Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Yuriy Prodan and Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak on September 6 for gas talks, according to Ukrainian officials.

Yatseniuk said that Ukraine and the EU will have a common position towards easing of tensions, normalizing the gas sector and avoiding using energy as a political tool.

"We know about Russia's plans to actually turn off Ukraine from all energy sources," Yatseniuk said. 'Our position is clear and unchanged - approaches to [the] energy security of Ukraine have been expressed in a common vision of the EU and Ukraine, and were conveyed to the Russian Federation."

Gas siphoning

Prodan said on August 19 that Russian gas company Gazprom, in a recent telegram, accused Ukraine of siphoning Russian gas in July.

Gazprom used similar siphoning allegations to shut the gas transit to Europe via Ukraine twice, in January 2006 and in January 2009.

"We got the certificate of transit in July from Gazprom in which an imbalance of gas of 0.03% is treated as siphoning off gas," Prodan said at a press conference.

Andriy Kobolev, the head of the national energy company Naftogaz Ukrayiny, said August 13 there was a growing risk of disruption of Russian gas supplies.

Russia completely suspended supplies of gas to Ukraine on June 16 due to gas price dispute, but continues to move its gas across the Ukrainian territory to markets in the EU.

Russian gas giant Gazprom is sending more than a half of its Europe-bound gas supplies via the Ukrainian territory. Europe is Gazprom's key market.

In 2013 Ukraine transported 86.1 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to Europe, including to the European Union and Moldova, up 3.2% from 84.2 Bcm shipped in 2012, according to the Energy and Coal Industry Ministry.

Next article: Gazprom, Naftogaz disagree over Russian gas transit fee

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