Ukraine energy exec urges EU pressure on Russia's Gazprom
The head of the Ukraine's national energy company Thursday called on European officials to pressure Gazprom over the Russian energy giant's dealings with Slovakia.
Andriy Kobolev, chairman and chief executive of Naftogaz, said that the European Union should require Gazprom to step back from a key pipeline connection between Slovakia and Ukraine.
"If they (Gazprom) want to see how gas is metered, they can stay there," Kobolev said in an interview with AFP. "But they cannot stop European countries from selling gas to Ukraine."
Kobolev's remarks came as a tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas supplies continues in the shadows of the larger political conflict between the two countries.
European officials have been anxious to resume three-way talks with the two countries over gas shipments since Russia cut Ukraine off in June and threatened to cut the EU from gas shipments if countries supply gas to Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday voiced "cautious optimism" that a compromise could be reached, while EU officials said they were targeting October 21 to resume talks.
Kobolev said most of Europe is "pretty much ready" for the winter even if Russia follows through on threats to close the spigots on fuel often used for indoor heating.
The amount of gas in storage in many EU countries is "huge," and many states could import liquefied natural gas in a pinch, he said.
That would make a supply crunch an economic burden in many places, but one that would not have life or death consequences.
But Kobolev said the situation is "critical" for Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, which might need to get gas from Ukraine in a crisis.
Top Slovakian officials, including Prime Minister Robert Fico, have said Gazprom has cut natural gas deliveries to Slovakia by half because Slovakia sold gas to Ukraine.
Gazprom has denied the charge, but Russian officials have said it is illegal for EU states to re-export gas to Ukraine.
Kobolev said Gazprom is acting as a "virtual transmission system operator" over the Slovakia-Ukraine pipeline link in violation of EU rules.
"We believe that as soon as Europe proves to Gazprom that exceptions to the law will not be made, Gazprom will play according to European laws."
© 2014 AFP