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2014-10-02 20:40:00



Russia cut natural gas supplies to European Union member Slovakia by 50% Wednesday, Moscow's latest and most significant reduction in energy supplies to an EU country that is helping Ukraine build gas supplies ahead of winter.

Slovakia's prime minister said the supply cut is a politically driven message to the EU as it negotiates fragile gas talks between Moscow and Kiev.

"What's interesting in the case is that it isn't about a lack of gas, but this is about playing with gas supplies as an instrument of political posturing," Robert Fico said Wednesday.

Slovakia this year began supplying natural gas to its eastern neighbor as an act of solidarity after Russia's OAO Gazprom stopped supplying Ukraine with gas in June amid a price dispute and the broader conflicts between the two countries.

Mr. Fico said Slovakia will "fulfill its commitments" to supply Ukraine with the fuel.

Eustream, the Slovak gas pipeline operator, Wednesday said its supplies to Ukraine were taking place without interruption.

Gazprom earlier reduced gas flows to Slovakia and Austria, as well as to Poland, which also is supplying Ukraine with gas.

Hungary, which had been supplying gas to Ukraine, last week halted all gas shipments there, leaving Slovakia and Poland as Ukraine's lone suppliers.

Hungary Wednesday said it is receiving all contracted supplies of gas from Russia.

The fall in supplies to the EU states comes as Russia and Ukraine have been unable to agree on terms to resume gas flows to the former Soviet country.

Last Friday the two sides agreed to a tentative deal brokered by European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, but Moscow and Kiev haven't agreed on details and the compact remains on ice as the winter heating season approaches.

As of Sept. 30, Ukraine's underground gas storage facilities were only at 52% of capacity, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe, a Brussels-based trade group. Ukraine faces a gas shortage if supplies cannot be resumed, analysts have said.

To cope domestically with the fall in gas supplies, Slovakia's natural gas import and distribution company SPP AS said that it has made an "extraordinary purchase" of gas on the spot market from alternative suppliers. The volume it acquired is sufficient to cover the current daily consumption of its customer base, while also enabling the country to continue filling its underground storage facilities, the company said.

Slovakia's storage facilities were at 95% of capacity on Tuesday.

SPP said it would continue injecting gas into the underground storage units until the end of October and Slovak households and businesses will continue to receive all gas needed.

Should gas supplies to Slovakia remain reduced or even stop, SPP said it has adopted measures enabling it to source gas from Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Mr. Fico said he doesn't believe Russia will completely halt gas supplies to the EU country.




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