Russia vows to honour gas deal with Europe

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The EU and Russia have both moved to ease concerns that gas supplies to and through Ukraine may be disrupted by its row with Moscow.

It comes after President Putin warned that deliveries could be shut off unless a solution is found urgently.

European Commission spokeswoman, Sabine Berger said: “Gas supplies from Russia to the EU via all supply routes are normal and stable at the moment. We expect Russia to respect its supply commitments and we expect Ukraine to respect its transit commitments to the EU.”

Putin’s warning to European leaders in a letter on Thursday prompted the United States to accuse Russia of using energy as a “tool of coercion”.

Speaking in Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to play down talk of an impending energy crisis.

“We welcome the apparent recent change in the position of the EU and the appeals to hold consultations within the format of Russia-EU partner states. We are ready for that, including the issues mentioned by President Putin in his address to leaders of the countries which receive Russian gas through Ukrainian territory,” said Lavrov.

But if Russia does decide to turn off its taps at some stage, Sweden’s Foreign Minister says the EU is prepared, having learnt from previous experience.

Carl Bildt, Swedish Foreign Minister:
“Russia should learn from the experience of 2006/2009. These things when you employ them, energy weapons, do work in the short term, but they backfire in the long term. Russia is more dependent on the income of the gas then Europe is dependent on the gas. So, yes there will be a short term problem if Russia proceeds, but at the end of the day it might have more problems than us.”

Russia’s state-owned Gazprom has nearly doubled its prices since Ukraine’s new leaders came to power in February.

Gazprom is also demanding Ukraine pay its debt of 2.2 billion dollars.

Kyiv is now believed to be considering striking new deals with potential suppliers Hungary and Slovakia.

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