EU's top energy official downplays risk of fresh Russian gas dispute

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Europe’s improved energy infrastructure and a milder winter has reduced the risk of Russia using gas as a political weapon, according to a top EU official.

Moscow has turned off the taps in the past – in 2006 and 2009 – over price disputes with Ukraine.

The EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said: “At the moment there is no reason for concern, at the moment in the member states the gas situation is good, the supply for industry and households has been maintained. Our storage capacities are fuller than a year ago. “

Russia is Europe’s top gas supplier and one-third of it travels through Ukraine .

Six EU states get all of their gas from Russia whilst Germany takes 40 percent of its imports from Russian sources.

Industry experts say that Europe needs Russian energy, but Russia simply cannot afford to lose vital gas revenue by cutting supplies.

“80 percent of Russian gas exports go to the EU. On the other hand, the Russians do not have many other alternatives to export their gas,” said Arno Behrens of the Centre for European Policy Studies.

“Furthermore, the European energy market, in particular the gas market, is much more integrated than it used to be, so currently I do not see any danger for gas supply in the EU,” he added.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has said that the EU will now help Ukraine settle its gas debts to Moscow.

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