The European Union has called an emergency meeting of member states’ energy officials amid a deadlock in a crisis over gas between Russia and Ukraine. Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has threatened to cut off supplies to Ukraine on New Year’s Day unless it agrees to a huge price increase. There are fears that Russian supplies to other countries – within the EU – could also be affected.
“Gazprom held a meeting of operational staff where a detailed plan of uninterrupted supplies to European consumers were discussed,” said company Chairman Alexei Miller. “If between now and the New Year Ukraine does not sign a contract, at 10am Moscow time on January 1 supplies of gas from the territory of the Russian Federation to Ukrainian consumers will be completely stopped. We will act decisively and clearly.”
The EU buys 25 per cent of its gas from Russia – most of it transported through Ukrainian pipelines. In 2003, Germany bought 39 per cent of its supplies from Gazprom, Austria 65 per cent, Hungary 68 per cent, Poland 65 per cent and the Czech Republic 79 per cent.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia became strained after Viktor Yushchenko took power a year ago by defeating a Kremlin-backed candidate. Moscow denies claims by Kiev that it is being punished for its pro-Western policies. Ukraine says Russia has demanded lower price increases from other ex-Soviet states.