Saturday

26th May 2018

EU gas flows 'normal' despite Ukraine pipeline explosion

  • Ukraine says the 'key version of events is an act of terrorism' (Photo: net efekt)

A pipeline explosion caused by a suspected “terrorist” attack has not disrupted gas flows to the EU.

The European Commission told EUobserver on Wednesday (18 June) morning that "according to its information" Ukraine deliveries to the EU “are normal".

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Ukraine's distribution firm, Naftogaz, said in a statement on Tuesday there is “smooth supply to consumers in Ukraine and transit to Europe” despite the incident.

The explosion occurred at 2.20pm local time on Tuesday on a part of the Urengoy-Uzhgorod-Pomary pipeline in the Poltava region in north-east Ukraine.

The underground pipe carries 28 billion cubic metres of gas a year from Russia to Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy.

Emergency services put out the fire at 4.15pm, while Naftogaz sealed off a 20km section of the system and “transferred gas flows to a parallel pipeline”.

Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev sai he solved the problem despite already facing “non-standard” conditions after Russia stopped deliveries on Monday in a price dispute.

Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, noted that the “key version of events is an act of terrorism” by Russia-backed rebels because local people “heard two strong claps that may indicate deliberate explosions” before the fire broke out.

With the incident taking place 10 days before the EU and Ukraine are to sign a trade treaty opposed by Russia, he added: “I recall that on the eve of the presidential election [on 25 May] we were warned of two attempted terrorist attacks on the Ukrainian gas transportation system”.

A Kiev-based diplomat from one EU country told EUobserver Russia’s motive could be to show the EU that Ukraine is an unreliable transit state in order to get the European Commission to lift its legal challenge to South Stream, a Russian pipeline project designed to bypass Ukraine.

He added that Ukraine might have blown it up itself in order to discredit Russia, however.

“[Russian company] Gazprom is financially dependent on Ukrainian transit to the EU, so its not in their interest to gravely disrupt supplies to Europe … If it doesn’t cause a long-term problem then I suspect Russia was behind it, but if it does, then I wouldn’t rule out Ukrainian involvement,” the source said.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency the same day, EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said he hopes EU-brokered talks on the Russia-Ukraine price dispute would resume in mid-July.

“We are in June, so it's not really urgent today, but it's my concern and my ambition to use the summer time [to end the price row],” he noted.

He blamed Russia for not being "flexible” enough in the last round of talks.

Russia offered to supply gas to Ukraine for $385 per thousand cubic metres instead of its current price of $485.

But Ukraine is pushing for $326 and wants Russia to alter its 2009 gas supply contract to reflect any new deal in order to prevent it from increasing the price in future.

Gazprom’s average European price is $372.

But for his part, Michael Gonchar, a former Naftogaz executive, told this website the price should be $326 because Ukraine is geographically closer to Russia than most EU states and because spot prices for gas have fallen to some $300.

He added that Ukraine cannot start paying its multi-billion-euro gas debt to Russia while the price is in question because the size of the debt might go up or down.

“We have a military campaign against Ukraine on one front and we have another campaign on the energy front because [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin wants to exert the maximum pressure on Ukrainian authorities not to sign the [EU] trade agreement,” he said.

“Russia’s offer of a $100 ‘discount’ is unattractive because it could cancel this at any time based on a new government decision.”

Meanwhile, Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke by phone after the pipeline explosion.

Putin’s office said they discussed “the possible cessation of hostilities in south-east Ukraine”.

It added that Poroshenko expressed “condolences” on the death of two Russian journalists in the conflict zone, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin from the Rossiya TV broadcaster, and promised to investigate what happened.

Analysis

Good day for Russia in Europe

Russian firm Gazprom is a reformed character, the EU commission has said, improving the climate for new pipelines to Europe.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations