* Gazprom warns it may scrap gas price discount to Ukraine
* Gazprom says gas transit to Europe via Ukraine intact
* Gazprom put Ukraine's outstanding gas bill at over $1.5
By Pavel Polityuk and Dmitry Zhdannikov
KIEV/LONDON March 3 Ukraine has increased gas
imports from Russia over the last few days, a spokesman for
Ukraine's gas transit monopoly said on Monday, amid warnings
that state gas producer Gazprom might scrap a discount on
As concerns grow over gas supplies after Russian President
Vladimir Putin won parliamentary approval to invade Ukraine,
analysts say Kiev is trying to import as much gas as possible at
the lower prices.
Moscow, enraged with Ukraine's new pro-EU government, has
warned Kiev it could lose the discount it currently gets from
Gazprom due to Kiev's outstanding gas debt.
"We doubled our gas imports from Russia. We imported 45
million cubic metres 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.
Ukraine is a major buyer of gas from Gazprom, which exported
almost 26 bcm of gas to its neighbour last year, more than half
of the 50.4 bcm it consumed.
Russian gas industry sources also said Ukrainian state
energy company Naftogaz had imported 27.6 million cubic metres
(mcm) on Feb. 26, 45.8 mcm on Feb. 27, 60 mcm on Feb. 28 and
44.5 mcm on March 1.
This was compared with 28 mcm per day as of Feb. 24,
according to two Russian industry sources.
Both Gazprom and Naftogaz declined to comment on the
increase in gas supplies.
Ukraine, a sprawling country of 46 million people, is also a
key transit route for Russian gas to the European Union and
Turkey, where Gazprom increased its supply share to 30 percent
in 2013 by boosting exports to a historic high of 162.7 bcm.
More than half of that, or 86 bcm, went through Ukraine.
Russia has been accused of using gas as a way to pressure
its neighbour, and in earlier price disputes in 2006 and 2009
Moscow has cut off supplies at the height of winter.
Gazprom says there has been no effect on transit from events
in Ukraine, where the West says Russian troops have taken
control of the southern Crimea peninsula, home to Russia's Black
Sea fleet and a large population of ethnic Russians.
Gazprom's Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Medvedev said on
Monday that transit would be at least 70 bcm this year.
But some analysts said the seizure of Crimea put the transit
"(Russian President) Vladimir Putin's Crimean plan increases
the risk of interruption of transit flows of Russian gas through
Ukraine. Russian gas supplies via Ukraine can stop any day,"
said Mikhail Korchemkin of U.S.-based consultancy East European
"The heating season is ending, and Ukraine would be able to
live on without any imports of Russian gas for about seven
months. Gazprom would be losing about one-third of its monthly
Andrei Kruglov, Gazprom's chief financial officer, repeated
warnings that the company may increase gas prices for Ukraine
after Russia agreed in December to reduce it by about a third,
to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres from around $400, which
Ukraine had paid since 2009.
The agreement to cut gas prices was reached after ousted
President Viktor Yanukovich spurned an EU trade deal in favour
of closer ties to Moscow. He fled Ukraine over a week ago, and
surfaced in Russia on Friday.
Gazprom put Ukraine's outstanding gas bill at over $1.5
Ukraine cut Russian gas purchases last year, saying the
price was too high for its fragile economy, which faces $6
billion in foreign debt payments this year. Ukraine's new rulers
say they need around $35 billion over the next two years and
have asked the International Monetary Fund for financial help.
"The situation with payments is worrying. Ukraine is paying,
but not as well as we would like it to ... We are still thinking
whether to extend the pricing contract into the next quarter
based on current prices," Kruglov said during a meeting with
investors in London.
The deal allowed for the price to be revised quarterly
between the 5th and 10th day of the first month every quarter.