* Ukraine fears Russian gas supply cut
* Slovakia could send up to 20 bcm to Ukraine, but not yet
* EU wants to shore up energy security, cut dependence on
By Alexander Winning
LONDON, April 4 Ukrainian prime minister Arseny
Yatseniuk is hoping Europe can reverse gas down its East-to-West
pipelines to help counter "political" price hikes in the gas
Ukraine gets from Russia, but it could take until next winter to
make the adjustments needed for significant volumes.
Moscow raised its discounted gas tariff for Kiev twice this
week, almost doubling it in three days, and Yatseniuk now fears
Russia could also restrict gas supplies.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have turned hostile
since popular protests in Kiev ousted pro-Russian president
Viktor Yanukovich in February, after which Russia seized
Ukraine's Crimea region and formally annexed it last month.
European pipelines are built to pump gas east to west, but
building a compressor station on the western side can drive a
limited amount of gas eastward.
The European Union has encouraged member states to build
such stations following previous gas crises involving disruption
of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, a major transit route for
Flows of about 5 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year can
already be pumped to Ukraine through Hungary and Poland, but
that represents just 8 percent of Ukrainian demand.
The biggest potential link is via Slovakia, with capacity of
up to 20 bcm a year, enough to meet around 35 percent of
Slovakia has already built a compressor station, but it
still needs to make a series of technical adjustments to its
pipeline network to reverse flows.
The measures still needed include building a new metering
station and an interconnector to link the station with existing
pipelines to Ukraine.
They could cost Slovakia about 20 million euros ($27
million) and take roughly nine months to complete, an industry
"Slovakia already has enough power to pump gas into Ukraine,
but these technical adjustments are necessary," the source said.
Ukraine and Slovakia began talks on importing gas from the
EU last month, when officials from their respective national
pipeline operators Ukrtransgas and Eustream met in Brussels.
European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said he
hoped a deal could be reached by the end of April, and Yatseniuk
said on Friday that Ukraine was in emergency talks to import
natural gas from the West.
Slovak pipeline operator Eustream said talks with
Ukrtransgas were ongoing and that discussions in the next few
days would be key to nail down a deal.
"Meetings scheduled for the next few days should provide
answers to questions of a technical, financial and time nature,"
Eustream said in a statement.
($1 = 0.7291 Euros)
(Editing by Will Waterman)