Russian gas cut while Tehran offers increase

ISTANBUL - While Europe is shaken by the recent energy crisis initiated by a Russian-Ukrainian row, Turkey says the flow of Russian natural gas through a pipeline via the Balkans has stopped entirely. Ankara seeks other alternatives including Iran

Turkey's energy minister yesterday said the flow of Russian natural gas through a pipeline via the Balkans had been cut over a row between Russia and Ukraine, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The flow to Turkey through a pipeline running via Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, that totals 32 million cubic meters per day, stopped entirely yesterday after initially falling to 17 billion cubic meters, Hilmi Güler said. Russia started pumping more gas to Turkey through the Blue Stream conduit that runs under the Black Sea and links the two countries directly, he said, and added that the amount had increased from 40 to 48 million cubic meters per day.

Other measures against the cut included the use of liquefied petroleum gas supplies and gas stored in underground depots, he said, and added that gas-fired power plants had also switched to alternative fuels.

Iran may be an option
The flow of Iranian gas to Turkey is continuing as normal at a daily rate of 15 million cubic meters and the country will increase natural gas imports from Iran to help meet the shortfall in supply, Güler said.

Steps have been taken to ensure gas supply and there is no problem, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, according to the CNBC-E television channel.

On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's state-run gas company Gazprom to start cutting supplies bound for Europe via Ukraine in retaliation for Ukraine's alleged theft of Russian gas. Ukraine denies siphoning off Russian gas and has accused Moscow of engineering the crisis.

Güler said he would discuss the issue with the Ukrainian ambassador in Turkey and Gazprom officials. Turkey also rejected a request from Greece to provide additional gas supplies.

Apart from Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and Croatia said flows of Russian gas via Ukraine had come to a halt, creating what Bulgaria called a crisis situation in the middle of winter. European Union member states Austria and Romania said deliveries were down 90 percent and 75 percent respectively.

According to Reuters, German utility E.ON Ruhrgas said it expected supplies to Germany from Ukraine via the Czech Waidhaus border point to stop entirely yesterday. Slovakia declared a state of emergency yesterday after Russian gas supplies to the country fell by 70 percent overnight, AFP quoted Economy Minister Lubomir Jahnatek as saying. Larger EU countries said they had large amounts of gas stockpiled after several mild winters and had access to supplies from sources such as Norway and Algeria.

The dispute threatens to worsen Russia's ties with the West, already tense after its war with Georgia last year. The EU urged Moscow and Kiev to find a solution by the end of the week. "We are discussing an extreme option with (EU Commission chief Jose Manuel) Barroso, which is a three-way summit," said Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, reported Reuters. "However, this is not on the table yet, because we insist the two sides reach an agreement," he told a news conference.
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