Wants To Buy European Gas To Boost Energy Security
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[April 11, 2014]
By Natalia Zinets
KIEV (Reuters) — Ukraine hopes to buy gas
from Europe to shore up its energy security, fearful Russia will cut gas
supplies over Kiev's refusal to pay Moscow's "political, uneconomic
price" for supplies, its energy minister said on Friday.
Yuri Prodan told parliament the European Union would stand in
solidarity with Ukraine if Russia reduced supplies, making sure
Moscow could not increase flows through alternative pipelines to
bypass its former Soviet neighbour.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders on Thursday
that gas supplies to Europe could be disrupted by Ukraine's failure
to pay its gas bills, a move Washington said was using energy "as a
tool of coercion".
"Ukraine cannot pay such a political, uneconomic price, so now we
are negotiating with the European Union about reverse deliveries
into Ukraine," Prodan said.
"We will make gas purchases from reverse flows urgently. On the
conditions offered by European gas companies. We plan that they will
be Germany's RWE and a French gas company."
The ministry's spokeswoman confirmed the French company was GDF
Suez, adding no agreement had been signed as yet.
Russia has nearly doubled the gas price it charges Ukraine,
punishing an economy that for years was mismanaged by pro-Moscow
President Viktor Yanukovich and has been in freefall since he was
toppled in violent protests.
Kiev's new leaders accuse Moscow of using gas as a way of punishing
them for pursuing closer ties with the EU, and the standoff has
deepened the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold war in
Ukraine has vowed to look elsewhere for gas, but Russian state gas
company Gazprom has questioned the legality of reversing flows so
that Europe can export it to Ukraine.
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Prodan said Ukraine could get small amounts of gas from Poland and
Hungary, and a bigger volume from Slovakia, but there were
"political questions" to be solved.
Slovakia has called for talks with Ukraine, Russia and the European
Commission, the EU executive, to ensure it can export gas to Ukraine
without violating existing contracts.
Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the United States are due to meet in
Geneva on Thursday to talk about the Ukraine crisis.
Prodan also said Ukraine would turn to an arbitration tribunal in
Stockholm to try to cancel a deal struck with Russia in 2009, when
Kiev agreed an inflated price.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; writing by Elizabeth Piper;
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