After the Russian state-run oil company Gazprom threatened on Tuesday (24 February) that it could potentially cut off its gas supplies to Ukraine within two days, EU Commission Vice President, Maros Sefcovic, has been trying to broker another “winter package” between Russia and Ukraine in order to avert another gas crisis. The initial package should have ensured pre-paid Russian gas to Ukraine until the end of March.
A potential new conflict between Kiev and Moscow became apparent earlier this week when Gazprom’s CEO, Alexei Miller, said that Ukraine had failed to make a new pre-payment for its gas supplies on time. As a result, he added, Gazprom could turn off its gas taps leading “to a complete termination of the Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, which creates serious risks for the gas transit to Europe”. Gazprom’s Ukrainian counterpart, state-run Naftogaz, accused the Russian giant of violating the last EU-brokered deal regarding supplying pre-paid gas to Ukraine. Instead, Gazprom is reportedly providing gas to separatists in the east of Ukraine, Kiev claims. Yet, EU Commission Vice-President Sefcovic said that the Commission had “conflicting information from both sides”.
According to Mr Sefcovic, there is a risk of a renewed gas crisis with possible repercussions for Europe as well. The European Union relies on Russian gas in about a third of its total gas consumption while around half of it is flowing via Ukraine. In order to thwart the potential troubles, Mr Sefcovic said he was “in almost permanent phone contact” with the Russian Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak, with his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Demchishin, and the head of Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolev. Mr Sefcovic thinks that the allegations that Russia is sending Ukrainian pre-paid gas to separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk should be treated separately from the “winter package”, which he proposed to both sides yesterday (25 February).