No one disputes that the amount of Russian gas being piped through Ukraine has been cut by at least 20 percent. But who’s responsible?
Poland said Sept. 10 that the amount of gas coming from the Kremlin-run gas monopoly Gazprom was down by at least one-fifth, feeding a growing suspicion in much of Europe that Moscow is using energy as leverage in its continuing dispute with the West over its actions in Ukraine.
Poland’s state-controlled gas company PGNiG says gas deliveries from Gazprom through Ukraine and neighboring Belarus were down by 20 percent on Sept. 8 and by 24 percent on Sept. 9. It says it’s investigating the shortfall.
Meanwhile, Ukrtranzgaz, Ukraine’s pipeline monopoly, said Gazprom was reducing shipments to Poland to prevent “reverse flows” of gas, where Warsaw diverts 4 million cubic meters of gas daily headed for Western Europe southward to serve Ukrainian homes and businesses.
Uktransgaz CEO Igor Prokopiv said Russia is trying to “derail” this reverse-flow agreement. Ukraine is getting no gas directly from Russia in a dispute over outstanding debt for previous gas deliveries.
Gazprom says its flow of gas hasn’t changed and that if there is a reduction, it’s Poland’s fault, not Russia’s.
“Reports by news agencies on the reduction of volumes of gas supplies by Gazprom to Poland’s PGNiG are incorrect,” Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said, according to RT, quoting Itar-Tass. “The same volume of gas as in previous days – 23 million cubic meters a day – is being supplied to Poland now.”
No matter who is responsible for the reduction in the flow of gas, the consequences of the dispute go far beyond Poland and Ukraine. EU nations get one-third of their gas supplies from Russia, and half of that amount flows through Ukraine. Similar disputes led to interruptions in the supply of gas to Europe twice before, in 2006 and 2009.
Nevertheless, there was no evidence that the current shortage was affecting any Western European customers. Slovakia, a major transit point for Russia gas exports to Europe, said volumes had not changed, and operators in Hungary, Bosnia and Serbia said the same.
And in Austria, a spokesman for the energy company OMV told Reuters, “The supply situation in Austria is normal. Deliveries from our Russian partner come within the range of normal fluctuations.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com