EU raps Hungary over Ukraine gas cut

26th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

The European Union rapped Hungary on Friday for halting the gas supply to neighbouring Ukraine as fresh concerns loomed about a winter energy war with Moscow.

Hungary's gas pipeline network operator unexpectedly suspended the supply to Ukraine on Thursday, saying it had to meet an increase in national demand.

Moscow says Europe is contractually forbidden from re-exporting gas to Ukraine after supplies to the ex-Soviet republic were cut in June amid a price dispute and fighting in southeast Ukraine.

But Brussels insists so-called "reverse flows" are legal and that all EU countries are expected to help Kiev with its gas supplies.

"The message from the commission is very clear -- we expect all member states to facilitate reverse flows as agreed by the European Council in the interest of a shared energy security," said European Commission spokeswoman Helene Banner.

"There is nothing preventing EU companies to dispose freely of gas they have purchased from Gazprom, and this includes selling this gas to customers both within the EU as well as to third countries such as Ukraine," she told a briefing.

The Hungarian halt in supply came days after a meeting in Budapest between Alexei Miller, head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who often warns against damaging commercial relations with Russia.

Ukrainian state-owned gas firm Naftogaz said it "deeply regrets" the "unexpected and unexplained" Hungarian decision.

Russia is the biggest supplier of gas to Europe, with Hungary one of 12 eastern and central European member states that rely on Moscow for more than three quarters of their gas.

A three-way meeting of energy chiefs from the EU, Russia and Ukraine was taking place in Berlin on Friday aimed at ending the stand-off.

Russia ended all gas sales to Ukraine in June after Kiev balked at paying a higher price imposed by Moscow in the wake of the February ouster of the unpopular Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told a German newspaper Friday that the re-export to Ukraine of Russian gas was illegal and could see some of its nations go without shipments from Gazprom for the first time since 2009.


© 2014 AFP

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