Europe gas supply faces 'major transit risks': Putin

16th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

Europe faces "major transit risks" to gas supplies coming from Russia this winter unless Ukraine resolves a gas dispute with Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday.

"There will be no crises through a fault of Russian participants of energy cooperation in Europe," Putin said on a visit to EU aspirant Serbia.

"But there are major transit risks," he said ahead of key talks with EU leaders and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in Milan later Thursday and on Friday.

Russia nearly doubled Ukraine's gas price a few weeks after the February ouster in Kiev of a Kremlin-backed president who had rejected a historic EU association pact.

Russian state gas giant Gazprom cut deliveries to its western neighbour in June after Kiev refused to pay the higher rate, and all European mediation efforts since have failed.

"If we see that our Ukrainian partners -- as in 2008 -- start siphoning off our gas from the export pipeline system in an unauthorised manner then we will also -- like in 2008 -- be gradually reducing supplies by the amount that has been stolen," Putin said in Belgrade.

"But I am very much hoping that it will not come to that," he said, expressing hope that the talks in Milan on Friday and separate energy discussions next week will bear fruit.

"I am hoping that they will be able to agree on everything and draw a line under all the disputes," Putin said.

A fresh round of gas talks between Russia, the EU and Ukraine aimed at settling the gas dispute is set to take place in Berlin on October 21.

Haggling over gas prices was a frequent problem in ties with Kiev before the current crisis, with Gazprom pulling the plug on gas to Ukraine in the winters of 2005-2006 and 2008-2009, disrupting supplies to European customers.

© 2014 AFP

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