Blackout fear for EU as gas row escalates

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine yesterday in a dispute over unpaid bills that rang political alarm bells across the European Union, which imports up to 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia, the bulk of it through Ukraine.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, called on Moscow and Kiev to solve the dispute as soon as possible. While Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, says it will continue pumping gas to European customers through Ukrainian territory, there are fears that Germany, Italy and other customers could eventually be hit if the dispute escalates. Two years ago, when Moscow cut supplies to Ukraine in a similar dispute, several EU countries experienced gas shortages after Ukraine tapped into the pipelines.

Washington responded to yesterday's shutdown by warning Russia that a "predictable" energy flow to Ukraine was essential. Urging Moscow to restore supplies, a White House spokesman said Russia should bear in mind "the humanitarian implications" of its action. "The parties should be resolving their differences through good-faith negotiations, without supply cutoffs," Gordon Johndroe said.

Talks between Gazprom and the Kiev gas company Naftogaz on the price of gas to be paid by Ukraine in 2009 and on fines Russia says it wants for £1bn in late payments broke down on Wednesday night and Russia turned off the taps early yesterday.

"We don't have any contract to supply gas for Ukraine's consumers at the moment, and thus we don't have any reasons to continue supplying gas," Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Gazprom, said.

While the latest dispute appears to threaten a replay of the 2006 crisis, which led to accusations that Moscow was using "energy blackmail" to punish its West-leaning neighbours, this time analysts say Russia's tough stance over the price of gas is more a reflection of its deteriorating economic situation as the global recession takes hold.

Ukraine says it can manage without Russian gas for several weeks through a combination of reserves and domestic gas production of 60 million cubic metres a day. Russia has been pumping 110 million cubic metres to Ukraine, plus 300 million cubic metres to European users through Ukraine's pipelines.

The price demanded by Russia of Ukraine was $250 per 1,000 cubic metres. Ukraine had argued that in the face of the declining oil prices, a fairer price would be $100 per 1,000 cubic metres. Western European consumers get Russia's gas for over $400 per 1,000 cubic metres.

Ukraine's 2008 debt for gas, which Moscow says is $2.1bn, remains another stumbling block in the talks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Part Time

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency based in Ashford, Ke...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent