(Adds quotes, details of possible coal imports)
KIEV Aug 22 Ukraine faces a long and cold
winter, Prime Minister Yatseniuk warned on Friday, saying the
country needs a further 5 billion cubic metres of Russian gas
and may need to import coal due to the impact of the conflict in
its industrial eastern regions.
Months of fighting between government forces and separatist
rebels in eastern Ukraine has forced coal mines to cut
production or close entirely, imperilling the country's
Meanwhile Russia, which supplied about half of the gas
Ukraine used last year, cut supplies on June 16 in a row over
pricing and in the wake of Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
Asked in a televised interview if he thought Ukraine could
survive without Russian gas, Yatseniuk said: "No ... The
situation (in winter) will be extremely difficult."
Ukrainian state-owned gas company Naftogaz has put aside
$3.1 billion to buy gas for the forthcoming winter period, he
Ukraine has also been trying to secure more gas from the
European Union and cut consumption levels from last year's 50
billion cubic metres (bcm). It currently has 15 bcm in its gas
reserves, Yatseniuk said.
The prime minister said Ukraine, a net exporter of thermal
coal, used for power generation, is considering buying
non-Ukrainian coal as domestic output has been hit by the
conflict with infrastructure destroyed by artillery fire and
supply networks disrupted.
Around half of the 115 coal mines in Ukraine, Europe's
second-largest coal producer, have halted production and output
fell 22 percent year-on-year in July to 5.6 million tonnes.
"The mines have been bombed so there's no production of
thermal coal ... Without supplies to power plants, there are
problems with electricity and heating," Yatseniuk said.
In the latest escalation of the conflict, Ukraine said on
Friday Russia had launched a "direct invasion" of its territory
after Moscow sent a convoy of aid trucks across the border.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice;
Editing by David Holmes)