Europe fears gas shortages if Russia cuts off Ukraine

(Reuters) – European Union countries such as Poland and Greece are worried they may face gas shortages and economic damage if Russia stops pumping the fuel to Ukraine, with Kiev facing a Friday deadline to pay Moscow a $2 billion energy bill.

EU authorities on Monday convened an urgent session of the bloc’s Gas Coordination Group, set up following previous energy disputes between Moscow and Kiev, to assess contingencies “in case a major disruption takes place” following Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, a document seen by Reuters shows.

Despite extreme tension between Moscow and Kiev’s new pro-Western government, Russian gas giant Gazprom has so far maintained supplies to Ukraine. The former Soviet republic is strategically important to Moscow as the main gas transit route to the European Union, Russia’s biggest customer.

But Russia has threatened to remove the discount Ukraine gets on the gas it receives for itself, and Kiev is up against a March 7 deadline to pay an outstanding gas bill.

Debt-laden Greece is particularly worried.

“A disruption from Ukraine is the worst scenario for Greece,” its energy experts said in input to the meeting, adding that liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity stood at 70% full and its next delivery was expected on March 14…

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