Jan Cienski in Warsaw -
Russia's Gazprom is tightening the screws on its European customers just as the EU prepares to levy a further round of sanctions against Russia for its behaviour in Ukraine.
Poland's former gas monopoly, the state controlled PGNiG, reported on Thursday that flows of Russian gas through three of Gazprom's pipelines were down by 45 per cent compared with what it had requested during the previous 24-hour period.
Slovakia has also noted a shortfall of gas it had ordered from Gazprom. SPP, Slovakia's gas distributor, "has reported a mild drop of gas supplies of approximately 10%. This situation has no impact on supplies to our customers," said a statement from Peter Bednar, a company spokesman.
The Polish company had also noted shortfalls, albeit smaller ones, in gas deliveries during the previous two days of the week. “PGNiG has not yet received any information from Gazprom concerning the reasons behind reduced gas supplies to Poland,” the Polish company said in a statement.
In a comment to the Polish press, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupranov said that the company was delivering 23m cubic metres of gas a day to Poland, adding that Gazprom is not fulfilling orders for additional gas because Russia is restocking its gas reservoirs before the start of winter.
PGNiG announced that it is buying additional gas through recently constructed interconnectors linking Poland to the German and Czech gas supply networks. The Polish distributor has also temporarily halted the re-export of gas to Ukraine, which is hoping to circumvent a Russian blockade by buying gas from its western neighbours. Slovakia also pumps gas to Ukraine. Russia has not been selling Ukraine gas since mid-June.
Gazprom's chief Alexei Miller has issued threats in the past that his company could limit gas sales to European customers planning on re-exporting some to Ukraine. Poles are convinced that Gazprom is sending a warning about supporting Ukraine, and is using gas as the medium to deliver the message.
“Lower transmission now can be attributed to the fact the the next EU sanction package against Russia is being decided,” writes Andrzej Bobinski of Polityka Insight, an analysis firm. “From the Russian standpoint, the decision may be rational in view of the ceasefire talks in Ukraine (as a form of pressure on Kiev), the new European Commission lineup … and the transition period in Polish politics.”
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