* EU exec wants Russia/Ukraine deal to ensure steady EU gas
* Kiev wants decision on $4 bln credit from banks in 2 weeks
(Adds detail, background)
By Pete Harrison
BRUSSELS, June 18 Ukrainian state-owned gas firm
Naftogaz should seal an agreement with Russia that would ensure
uninterrupted gas flows to Europe, the European Commission said
after a meeting of its gas experts on Thursday.
The gas coordination group discussed rising tensions between
Moscow and Ukraine, the country through which about 80 percent
of exports to Europe from Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom
The EU wants to avert a repeat of January's gas crisis when
a payment dispute between the two sides led to Russia cutting
off supplies into Ukraine, including those destined for Europe.
"The Commission urged both parties, Gazprom and Naftogaz, to
reach a stable and long-term arrangement to secure transit
towards the EU," the European Union executive said in a
"The European Commission emphasized that all parties should
fulfil their legal and contractual obligations as far as transit
to EU is concerned," it added.
Ukraine has highlighted difficulties paying for its future
imports. That has raised fears of another cut to Russian gas,
which accounts for around 25 percent of all EU consumption.
"The possibility of a new gas shortage in summer calls for
an in-depth investigation of its impact on the next winter, as
this will affect the preparedness of the EU shippers to supply
their customers," the Commission said.
Ukrainian officials say they need some $4 billion of credits
to buy Russian gas, and hope to get it from European banks.
Naftogaz put the required sum at $4.2 billion but said
large-scale borrowing could be avoided if European companies
bought more gas than currently needed and stored it in Ukraine.
Naftogaz deputy chief Ihor Didenko told reporters in
Brussels he hoped for a positive preliminary decision from
European banks in the next two weeks.
"We do not have enough of our own money to pay for all the
quantity of gas we need to buy from Gazprom for Ukrainian
consumption and for pumping to underground storage," he said.
Asked whether the group would make a July 7 deadline for
paying for Russian gas deliveries in June, he said: "I am not
God, so I cannot give guarantees about tomorrow, but we will try
our best to follow our contracts."
(Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Dale Hudson and Anthony