REUTERS - Supplies of Russian gas via Ukraine to Bulgaria,
Greece and Turkey stopped flowing on Tuesday because of a dispute
between Moscow and Kiev over gas prices, officials in Sofia said.
Russia on Monday ordered a reduction in gas flow to Europe
via Ukraine, a measure it said was to stop its neighbour
stealing fuel and which Ukraine said would jeopardise supplies
to Europe as it faces freezing temperatures.
The gas row has raised new questions about Russia's
reliability as an energy supplier and rekindled Western
suspicions -- still fresh after Russia's war with Georgia last
year -- that the Kremlin bullies its pro-Western neighbours.
Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom cut all supplies for
Ukraine's domestic use on New Year's day in a row over gas
prices -- creating a knock-on effect for Europe which receives
one fifth of its gas from pipelines through Ukraine.
"As of 3.30 a.m. (0130 GMT) supplies ... to Bulgaria as well
as the transit to Turkey, Greece and Macedonia have been
suspended," Bulgaria's Economy Ministry said in a statement. "We
are in a crisis situation."
There was no immediate confirmation from Turkey, Greece or
Macedonia of a halt in supplies. Turkey has an alternative route
for importing Russian gas, under the Black Sea.
South-east Europe and the Balkans receive their Russian gas
from a pipeline which passes from Ukraine via Bulgaria, so
officials in Sofia are likely to be the first to see signs of a
In Kiev, Ukrainian state energy Naftogaz firm said Russia
had cut gas supply via Ukraine to Europe to about a third of its
normal flow. "This means that in a few hours Europe will face a
problem with gas supplies," said a Naftogaz spokesman.
Gazprom said it had not choice but to reduce supplies to
Europe via Ukraine because Kiev was siphoning off gas intended
for transit. It said it would boost supplies through other
routes to compensate.
A delegation from the European Union was to meet Ukrainian
officials in Kiev on Tuesday, and fact-finding talks were also
planned for Tuesday between EU officials and Gazprom, though the
venue had not yet been confirmed.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on
Monday he had appealed to Putin and Ukrainian Prime Minister
Yulia Tymoshenko not to let their dispute affect Europe's gas
"I hope that the matter will be resolved, as the reality is
that if it is not then it may create problems for European
countries who are not responsible for the situation," he said.
Russia has clashed repeatedly with Ukraine's pro-Western
leaders over their ambition to join the NATO alliance. Gazprom
denies any political motive in the row and says it is purely
about Kiev's refusal to pay a fair price for its gas.