European countries could end up being cold this winter as Ukraine is pumping gas from the underground storage facilities to ensure the smooth supply flow, according to an interview with Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, published yesterday (3 January). Mr. Chizkov was interviewed by Russia’s news agency Interfax and made this remark when he was asked how he saw the current state of the EU-Russia affairs. Yet, he spoke favorably about the trilateral energy talks headed by EU Commission’s Vice President Maros Sefcovic. The major outcome of the Russia-EU-Ukraine talks is the so-called Winter Package under which the EU helps Ukraine to buy gas from Russia during winter.
Mr. Sefcovic has been mediating between Ukraine and Russia for the third consecutive year. Mr. Chizhov warned that for the package to work, Ukraine was supposed to buy gas from Russia. Instead, he said, the country was pumping gas from the underground storage facilities built during the Soviet times, the main goal of which is to guarantee supply during cold winters. The Russian diplomat said that the optimal level of gas held in the underground depots was 19 billion cubic meters (bcm), while the minimal level to ensure security of supply for Europe was 17 bcm.
However, during the December trilateral talks, the level was 14 bcm, and in his opinion, it is very likely that it is even lower today. Mr. Chizkov summed up this situation saying that Ukraine had used gas for its own needs. Ukraine’s underground gas storage facilities were constructed in a way that allowed either refilling them or siphoning them. However, these processes cannot take place simultaneously, Mr. Chizhov explained and added that “if all of a sudden, Ukraine decided to fill the gas storages, it would need to cut the supply for its own territory”.