Bulgaria the latest victim of Russia-Ukraine gas row

Bulgaria's economy ministry urged industry on Monday to temporarily reduce natural gas consumption due to a continued decline in Russia gas imports, the government office said.

The Russian and Ukrainian gas feud has continued to escalate

Bulgaria' state gas monopoly Bulgargaz said earlier on Monday that the Balkan country continued to see a 10-15 percent drop in Russian gas supplies after a price dispute between Ukraine and Russia affected supplies to Europe.

Supplies to Bulgaria, which relies almost entirely on Russian gas for its needs, started falling on Saturday but have not reached a critical level yet.

Economy Minister Petar Dimitrov launched talks with big industrial consumers to switch to alternative fuels to ease pressure on tiny domestic gas reserves, the government said in a statement.

Dimitrov met Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and Bulgargaz's executive director Dimitar Gogov to discuss the situation.

Bulgaria's underground storage facility of Chiren can provide between 3 and 4 million cubic metres of gas a day, enough to cover the shortfall for about a month if consumption remained unchanged, Bulgargaz said.

"If consumption, however, rises we might not be able to cover it," Gogov said after meeting the prime minister.

The Balkan country, where temperatures dropped below minus 10 degrees Celsius overnight, currently consumes about 10-11 million cubic metres of gas a day.

"The situation is worrying when someone is unable to fulfil their contract," Gogov told Reuters earlier on Monday.

He has said his company would be forced to reduce deliveries to clients if imports fell below 6.0-6.5 million cubic metres of gas a day.

Transit of Russian gas via Bulgaria to neighbouring Turkey, Greece and Macedonia also remained lower, Bulgargaz said.