There’s a new threat to Europe’s gas supplies from Russia. The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said they could dry up at the end of this month if Ukraine does not pay its gas bill. Ukraine is a major transit route for Russian gas bound for Europe, and the payment row has disrupted EU supplies twice before.
“All our requests to the European Commission for help in this case have been in vain. They only say: we have no money for Ukraine. So what’s going to happen now? At the first unpaid check, our energy company Gazprom will have the right to ask for payment in advance. No advance – no gas. And that means at the end of June, beginning of July, the flow from Russia could completely stop”, Putin said. Russia is keen for a new pipeline to be built, the Nord Stream, that would obviously by-pass Ukraine. The pipeline’s first section is expected to become operational some time next year. But it needs permission from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, and there are considerable concerns among the affected countries about security and environmental issues. Warsaw too has been a vocal critic of Nord Stream. 30-billion cubic metres of Russian gas currently crosses Poland, bound for Germany each year.