Ukraine moves to protect Europe natural gas pipelines amid Russia crisis

Kiev (Platts)--17 Mar 2014 851 am EDT/1251 GMT

Ukraine's law enforcement forces took full control of the country's natural gas pipelines that carry most of Russian gas to markets in Europe, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk ordered the protective measures a day after Russian soldiers sought to take control over a gas pumping station at a regional pipeline on the border between Ukraine's Kherson region and the breakaway region of Crimea.

The move also comes amid calls by the Ukrainian right-wing group to punish Russia for its invasion of Crimea by cutting off its gas supplies crossing the Ukrainian territory.

"On the orders of Prime Minister Yatseniuk the National Guard and the security service have taken special protection and full control of gas transmission and gas distribution system in Ukraine," the interior ministry said in a statement posted on its Website. "The decision was taken to ensure the safety and smooth running of the country's most important infrastructure facilities."

Ukraine ships more than a half of Russian Europe-bound gas supplies.

The development comes as Ukraine created a 20,000-strong National Guard force amid increasing tensions with Russia over its seizure of Crimea, Ukraine's autonomous region, earlier this month.

Crimeans, under supervision of Russian troops, on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia, pro-Russian authorities in Crimea said after the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Ukraine denounced the referendum as a sham.

Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector, a Ukrainian paramilitary group, issued a statement on Sunday threatening in response to destroy the Ukrainian oil and gas pipelines used by Russia to send its resources to Europe.

"If Russian soldiers' boots trample our land, we will do everything to make the occupier pay dearly for it," Yarosh said. "We know that Russia is making money by supplying oil and gas to the West through our pipelines. So we will destroy the pipeline, depriving the enemy of this source of revenue."

Ukraine transported 86.1 billion cu m of Russian gas to Europe in 2013, including to the EU and Moldova, up 3.2% from the 84.2 Bcm shipped in 2012, according to the energy and coal industry ministry.

--Alexander Bor,

--Edited by Maurice Geller,

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