Monday, April 06, 2009
Gazprom, EU gas firms to probe Ukraine gas risks
MOSCOW, April 3, 2009 (Reuters by Dmitry Zhdannikov) - Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has agreed to set up a working group with its top European customers to analyse what it described as the rising risks of gas transit via Ukraine, it said on Friday. Russian leaders have joined Gazprom in severely criticising a March gas agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Under the deal the European Union would invest in Ukraine's gas network. Russia said it was outraged it was not asked to take part despite the fact that it is the sole supplier of gas through that route. Ukraine has said Russia was still free to join the plan to modernise its pipelines, but Russia said it was suspending talks with Ukraine over a $5 billion stabilisation loan until it gets clarification as to what the new deal with the EU means. "The signing of the declaration behind Russia's back was a political mistake and it will be impossible to implement it without the involvement of the gas supplier," Gazprom quoted its chief Alexei Miller as telling European companies' executives. The statement said Miller met the executives of Italy's ENI (ENI.MI), Germany's E.ON (EONGn.DE) and France's GDF Suez (GSZ.PA). The statement said representatives of the firms would meet again in four to six weeks to analyse the situation with gas transit via Ukraine. Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, supplies a quarter of Europe's gas and 80 percent of those volumes come via Ukraine. Two of its pricing disputes with Ukraine, including one in January 2009, severely cut deliveries to Europe. Ukraine has so far paid in full for gas supplies this year but analysts say problems may arise in the coming months as the country's economy has been battered by the crisis. Gazprom said it was worried about Ukraine's ability to pay for gas to be stored for use in winter to ensure supplies to Europe. It has called on European gas firms to work with it to find solutions and sources of additional funding.