Thu, Jan 08, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Halt in Russian gas supplies to Europe complicates crisis

AFP , KIEV

All deliveries of Russian gas through Ukraine were halted yesterday in a deepening of a crisis between Moscow and Kiev that risks depriving European consumers of gas amid freezing weather.

At least 11 European states, including Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have now reported complete halts of Russian gas supplies amid freezing temperatures of almost minus 25˚C.

Among the worst hit is Bulgaria, which has asked the public to cut back on gas usage and ordered heating in all public transport in Sofia to be turned off.

Romania declared a state of emergency.

The Czech EU presidency called for an “urgent solution” to the row while the European Commission proposed sending observers to Ukraine to measure the flow of natural gas arriving from Russia.

In Prague, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the EU’s presidency, warned that the EU would toughen its response to the gas crisis if supplies were not restored by today.

“If the supply is not restored by tomorrow we will see a stronger intervention from the [EU] presidency and the EU as such,” he told journalists.

He did not say what form the tougher action would take.

Ukraine accused Russia of cutting off the gas to Europe while Russian energy giant Gazprom blamed Kiev for shutting the last remaining pipeline. Neither disputed that supplies of Russian gas across Ukraine had been halted.

“Russia stopped all transit through Ukraine” at 7:44am, said Valentin Zemlyansky, the spokesman for Ukraine’s state gas company Naftogaz. “Russia has left Europe without gas.”

Gazprom vice president Alexander Medvedev accused Ukraine of cutting all gas deliveries to Europe, warning of “very serious technical problems” if pipelines stay closed.

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