Moscow cuts coal supply to Kiev

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Coal cutoff escalates Russia-Ukraine tensions.

KIEV, Ukraine, Nov. 25 (UPI) — A Ukrainian natural gas company said it expects to receive prepaid gas from Russia and future deliveries may come as demand levels dictate. Crimeans continue to suffer from a lack of power as work to restore electricity supplies is hampered by protesters and a lack of political will to take them on.KIEV — Russia on Friday stopped coal deliveries to Ukraine, part of an escalating series of tit-for-tat measures sparked by a recent attack on electricity transmission lines that cut off power to Crimea, annexed by Moscow last year. “According to the information I have it is clear: there are not enough coal reserves,” Yatsenyuk said, adding that emergency measures would need to be taken to see the country through the winter.

Russia has begun to restrict coal supplies to Ukraine, Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn told parliament on Friday, days after the Kremlin threatened to punish Kiev for a power blackout of Russian-annexed Crimea. Since last weekend when saboteurs downed pylons bringing electricity from Ukraine houses have been dark and public transport has been immobilised, Long queues of motorists have formed at the petrol stations still supplied with fuel. “Almost no petrol stations work in the city. He said Kiev had one month of its own coal supplies left and was seeking alternative supplies from South Africa. “Right now our power stations have enough coal reserves in storage to last for at least one month.

A senior Ukrainian government source said officials were dragging their feet over the repairs in order to wring concessions from Russia, seizing the opportunity because Russian President Vladimir Putin is distracted by an escalating stand-off with Turkey after it shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday. “We’re taking all our chances to finally get the peninsula back, but the person who really helps is Mr Putin — letting his jet fighters fly through Turkish air space after all the warnings they got,” the official told POLITICO on condition of anonymity. Minor repair work has been carried out on the sabotaged pylons and power lines in southern Ukraine which supply Crimea, but none of the four pylons which were destroyed are operational. The European economy gets about a quarter of its natural gas demands met by Russia, though most of that volume runs through a Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine.Naftogaz Chief Executive Officer Andrei Kobolyev said that, at least since mid-2014, his company has shown it can keep gas moving “whether we get it for Ukraine or not.” “Refusing to buy Russian gas creates risks for gas transit to Europe and gas supplies for the Ukrainian consumers before this coming winter,” he was as saying. Crimea gets most of its power and water from Ukraine, which until now has maintained supplies despite the Russian occupation because of corruption and a desire not to inflict hardship on the civilian population.

The Ukrainian government appears to be trying to make Crimea an expensive burden for Moscow at a time when the Russian economy, still staggering under the weight of western sanctions, faces a new trade war with Ankara. Russia’s energy ministry has reported that the homes of more than one million Crimeans are still without electricity and generators at hospitals and government buildings are due to run out of fuel within two weeks. The Kremlin has brought forward plans to lay power cables between Crimea and the Russian mainland, but the first stage of construction will not be completed before the end of the year at the earliest. Russia has also been shipping food and water across the Kerch strait to avoid a cargo blockade led since September 20 by the Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary group Right Sector and Crimean Tatar activists, who have stopped truck traffic from Ukraine to Crimea. The government in Kiev has portrayed itself in Brussels as being under pressure from the nationalists, but at blockade checkpoints police and protesters have been working in tandem.

Although the blockade was illegal until this week, Ukrainian police had already tacitly endorsed it by preventing truck drivers using force to break through activists’ lines. The nationalists and Tatars blockading access to Crimea say they want the return of Crimea in the long-run and an immediate end to the Russian persecution of Tatar and Ukrainian minorities — specifically, the release of political prisoners. This week Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry said tanks and mobile rocket launchers had been moved to the Crimean border in response to the power outage. Ukraine has been steadily weaning itself off Russian gas, but still relies on its eastern neighbor for 30 percent of its supply. “A lot of efforts were made to diversify gas supplies in Ukraine,” said Andriy Kobolev, CEO of the state-controlled energy company Naftogaz Ukraine. “These efforts have started to give tangible results.

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