GAZPROM DISPUTE HITS EUROPE

Gas deliveries to the European Union have been disrupted since Russia cut supplies to Ukraine on January 1.

A gas disturbance is no trivial matter for Europe, considering that Russia supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas. Yet this time around (Russia cut gas supply to Ukraine in 2006), European reserves are more prepared for the intermediate supply drain.

Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz continue to point fingers at each other to lay blame for the EU disturbance on the other. Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev told Bloomberg Television that Ukraine shut three export pipelines and said “unilateral action of the Ukrainians” caused the shortfall. Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyanskyi said Gazprom cut shipments to Europe through Ukraine to 74 million cubic meters a day, compared with about 300 million normally.

The European Commission and the European Union presidency responded to the Russian move with a statement demanding that “gas supplies be restored immediately to the EU and that the two parties resume negotiations at once with a view to a definitive settlement of their bilateral commercial dispute.”

Gazprom chief executive, Aleksei B. Miller, said in a conversation with Prime Minister Putin—which was broadcast Monday on Russian state television—that Gazprom would reduce exports bound for Western Europe through Ukrainian pipes by the same amount that it accused Ukraine of diverting over the last days.

Russia is looking for the European community to put pressure on Ukraine to pay its gas debt and negotiate its gas price with Gazprom. With oil and natural gas both down -~75% since their summer highs and European disapproval of Russia’s attack on Georgia, Russia has lost significant weight on its balance sheet and has seen its geopolitical impact wane. We’ll be monitoring the tail risk associated with this gas disturbance and the increased tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Matt Hedrick
Analyst