Germany and Poland have both reported receiving fewer gas supplies than normal from Russian suppliers on Wednesday just days after the European Union backed new sanctions against Russia for its continued aggression in Ukraine.
“Things aren’t going so smoothly,” said Ihor Prokopiv with Ukrtransgaz, Ukraine’s energy transportation monopoly. “Today Russia started limiting gas supplies to Poland in order to disrupt the reverse (flows) from Poland that we receive.”
Prokopiv reported that Poland stopped about 4 million cubic meters of reverse gas supplies to Ukraine at 2 p.m. Wednesday. That same day, at least one German natural gas operator has reported its supplies from Russia were “slightly reduced,” reports Reuters.
European officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin is using natural gas supplies to the continent as leverage in his bid for dominance in Ukraine. Russia already has gained control of Crimea through a internationally contested election, and the media reported that Russian military forces are quickly moving through the country.
Ukrainian officials and rebel leaders in the eastern part of the country agreed to a ceasefire and reports indicate that most Russian forces have crossed the border back into their own country. But this respite in armed conflict does not mean Putin is backing down.
EU officials still fear that Putin could tamper with gas supplies to Europe. Russia currently supplies Europe with about one-third of its gas — half of that gas flows through the Ukraine, the target of Russian aggression.
According to Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned natural gas monopoly, gas supplies were pumping to all destinations “according to the resources available for exports and for the continuing pumping to storage facilities in the Russian Federation.”
But the company did not deny lowering supply levels to Poland, reports Reuters. This reduction in supply forced Poland to temporarily stop rerouting gas back to Ukraine.
“This is a warning signal for the EU not to go any further with the sanctions,” Pawel Poprawa with the Institute for Energy Studies in Warsaw, told Reuters.
Germany’s biggest utility E.ON seemed less worried about the slowdown in Russian supplies due to the huge stockpiles the country has built up in case of an emergency.
“This is not alarming due to well-stocked reserves and sufficient availability on hubs,” a company spokesman told Reuters.
There is not much of an immediate threat to German gas supplies, or to Western Europe in general. The area is well stocked with weeks of reserves in case flows from Russia or other areas are stopped. But supplies are limited and European leaders still have worries about being cut off from Russian gas.
In the face of such fears, the EU actually delayed imposing its latest round of sanctions on Russia. The latest round of sanctions are expected to target Russian energy companies and arms dealers.
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