Ukraine increases Russian gas imports, braces for price hike

MOSCOW/KIEV Mon Mar 3, 2014 4:09am EST

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MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine has increased Russian natural gas imports over the last few days, a spokesman for Ukraine's gas transit monopoly Ukrtransgas said on Monday, after Moscow said it may end lower prices to its neighbor.

As concerns grow over gas supplies after Russian President Vladimir Putin won parliamentary approval to invade Ukraine, analysts have said Kiev was trying to import as much gas as possible at the lower prices.

Moscow, enraged that Ukraine has a new pro-EU government, has warned Kiev it may lose a discount to the gas price it now pays to Russia's state-owned company Gazprom due to Kiev's outstanding gas debt.

"We doubled our gas imports from Russia. We imported 45 million cubic meters of gas on March 1, 2014 compared with 20 million on March 1, 2013," said Maxim Belyavsky, a spokesman for Ukraine's gas transit monopoly Ukrtransgas.

Russian gas industry sources also told Reuters that Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz had imported 27.6 million cubic meters on February 26, 45.8 mcm on February 27, 60 mcm on February 28 and 44.5 mcm on March 1.

Both Gazprom and Naftogaz declined to comment on reasons of gas supplies increase.

(Reporting by Olesya Astakhova and Denis Pinchuk in Moscow and Pavel Polityk and Natalia Zinets in Kiev, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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