Tensions spiral over Russian gas amid Ukraine crisis

Tensions spiral over Russian gas amid Ukraine crisis
Economy Minister Janusz Piechocinski

WARSAW - Poland on Thursday accused Russia's Gazprom of slashing gas deliveries by half, which analysts said was likely aimed at sending a message to the EU amid tensions over the Ukraine conflict.

Separately, Slovakia reported a 10 per cent drop in supplies, while Austria reported a 15 per cent fall off.

Analysts also saw the cuts to Poland as the Kremlin's way of upping the pressure ahead of key talks on resuming Russian deliveries to war-torn former Soviet Ukraine.

But the Russian energy giant denied cutting supplies by 45 per cent as Warsaw claimed, insisting daily deliveries remained stable at 23 billion cubic metres.

The supposed cut appears to result from Gazprom's failure to supply Poland with additional orders, over and above the daily volumes it has received up to now.

Poland's allegations came as tensions run high between the two countries over Ukraine, where Warsaw has supported Kiev in its battle against pro-Russian separatists in the east.

Warsaw has repeatedly called for tougher sanctions against Moscow over its role in the crisis.

Poland is also highly dependent on Russian gas. Of the 16 billion cubic metres it consumes annually, over 60 per cent is imported, mainly from Russia.

Poland's PGNiG gas utility, which observed a first cut in deliveries on Monday, said on Thursday it would plug the gap in supplies with deliveries transiting through the Czech Republic and Germany.

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