Russia won't switch off gas supply to Europe-Oettinger in magazine

BERLIN, March 8 Sat Mar 8, 2014 9:35am EST

BERLIN, March 8 (Reuters) - European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger does not expect Russia to switch off gas supplies to Europe over the Ukraine crisis, he told German magazine Wirtschaftswoche in an interview published on Saturday.

"I don't believe it would be in Russia's interests," Oettinger was quoted as saying.

Russian gas export giant Gazprom issued a thinly veiled warning on Friday that it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills. Ukraine is a major gas transit nation for supplies from Russia to the European Union, which relies on Russia for about a quarter of its gas.

But Oettinger said a cut-off would not be beneficial for the company: "Gazprom has an interest in its daily sales revenues so that investment is worthwhile and turnover is generated."

Oettinger said if no more gas flowed through Ukraine, it would affect 14 percent of European gas consumption.

In early 2009 Gazprom cut off gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills, leading to reductions in European supplies during a cold winter.

But Oettinger said Europe was better placed to deal with such a scenario given that the winter had been mild, gas storage sites were fuller than a year ago and European Union countries were now obliged to ensure they had 30 days' worth of supplies.

"We're in a better position than we were five years ago," he said.

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