Ukraine taps into EU gas via Slovakia
Ukraine began receiving gas from the European Union via Slovakia on Tuesday, part of a deal brokered by Brussels to reduce Kiev's energy dependence on Russia amid an escalating armed crisis.
Russia in mid-June cut its deliveries to Ukraine after a pro-Western government took power, saying that Kiev had not be paying its bills on time.
Visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Slovak counterpart Robert Fico presided over the switching on of a pipeline linking Slovakia's border town of Vojany and nearby Uzhhorod in western Ukraine.
"The Vojany-Uzhhorod pipeline will improve Ukraine's energy security. It's the best possible solution," Fico said.
The pipeline's full capacity of 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year could be achieved by next spring, officials said.
Ukraine currently consumes an annual 50 to 55 bcm of gas, half of which it imports from Russia, according to analyst figures.
As an EU member and neighbour to Ukraine, Slovakia is ideally located to provide Kiev with European gas.
RWE, Germany's number two energy utility began pumping gas to Ukraine via Poland in April, as part of a deal inked in 2012.
Moscow's decision to cut gas to Ukraine has sparked fears over irregularities cropping up in its deliveries to the 28-member EU, half of which come via pipelines in Ukraine, as was the case during disputes in 2006 and 2009.
According to EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger there are six EU members who are 100-percent dependent on Russia, with four of them getting their gas direct without transit through Ukraine.
Ukraine has admitted that its gas reserves would not last the winter, but has vowed not to syphon off gas destined for the EU.
© 2014 AFP