Ukraine: Russia Slashes Gas to Europe | NBC New York

Ukraine: Russia Slashes Gas to Europe

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    AFP/Getty Images
    A worker of Naftogaz company who turns off valves on a newly built Bobrovnytska gas-compressor and gas-holder station in Mryn, Chernigiv region on Dec. 16, 2008.

    KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine's gas company Naftogaz said Tuesday that Russia cut natural gas supplies to Europe by about two-thirds, raising the stakes in a spiraling dispute between the two neighbors that bodes ill for European consumers.

    Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky said Gazprom sent only 92 million cubic meters of gas for European consumers, down from 221 Monday and about 300 during previous days.

    "That is all they are sending, in several hours Europe will feel it," Zemlyansky told The Associated Press.

    Gazprom officials could not be immediately reached for comment and the drop in supplies could not be immediately confirmed.

    Trading blame
    Gazprom said late Monday that it would cut the amount of gas it ships to Europe through Ukraine by 65.3 million cubic meters — the same amount it accuses Ukraine of having stolen when it ran through its pipelines.

    Kiev denied the accusations, saying Russia is to blame for the disruption because it is refusing to ship extra gas used to make the delivery.

    The statement is bad news for European consumers.

    Some European countries are already experiencing supply problems after Russia cut off supplies to its neighbor on Jan. 1 over pricing disagreements and outstanding debt. Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria say supplies from pipelines through Ukraine remained down, in Romania's case by 30 percent.

    The reductions come as a European Union commission was to meet with senior Ukrainian officials Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

    Pressure on Ukraine
    Russia's reductions appear aimed at putting pressure on Ukraine, which has turned down several offers on prices and transit fees by Gazprom and which has enough gas reserves to last for weeks without Russian gas.

    During a similar dispute between Ukraine and Russia in 2006, several West European countries saw their gas supplies drop by 30 percent or more. This time Gazprom's customers were better prepared, having built up substantial reserves.

    Although the previous gas cutoff was seen as punishment for Ukraine's pro-Western policies, this time Gazprom is insisting it is a commercial dispute. Both countries are seeking to prove they are a reliable energy partner for the European Union.