| BRUSSELS, June 23
BRUSSELS, June 23 Kiev has appealed to the
European Union over an agreement between Slovak pipeline
operator Eustream and Russia's Gazprom that it says violates EU
law in allowing Gazprom to prevent reverse flows back to Ukraine
in a key pipeline, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Ukraine, seeking energy independence from Russia, has
repeatedly asked Slovakia to allow reverse flows through one of
four main pipelines at the Uzhgorod-Velke Kapusany gas transit
points on the Ukraine-Slovak border; but Eustream has declined,
citing the agreement with Russian supplier Gazprom's export arm.
"As a result, Ukrainian and European energy companies are
not able to use this gas connector ... This legacy contract
between Eustream and Gazprom Export is in direct violation of EU
law," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in a letter addressed
to EU Presidents and dated simply June.
Representatives at Eustream and the Slovak Economy Ministry
were not immefdiately available for comment. The European
Commission had no immediate comment.
The appeal from Ukraine follows publication of a two-year EU
investigation in April that accused Gazprom of abusing
its dominant position in Poland, Hungary and six other countries
in Eastern Europe by building "artificial barriers" to obstruct
Opening up so-called reverse gas flows eastward was part of
the EU's response to Gazprom's decision to cut supplies to Kiev
for six months in 2014 due to a row over pricing and following
Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
Last September, Slovakia upgraded another pipeline to supply
reverse flows to Ukraine. The link runs from Vojany power
station near the Ukrainian border to the western Ukrainian town
of Uzhgorod and has a capacity of 14.5 billion cubic metres per
A legal document supporting Yatseniuk's letter said Gazprom
Export, which controls all gas flows along the Uzhgorod-Velke
Kapusany pipelines in Ukraine, is also hindering the work of
Ukrainian gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz by refusing to
provide Ukraine with "shipper codes".
"Ukrtransgaz is effectively hindered from carrying out one
of its central functions as a transmission system operator," the
memo written by law firm Wikborg Rein and addressed to Ukrainian
state energy firm Naftogaz said.
Russia is Europe's biggest supplier of oil, coal and natural
gas. Its pipelines through Ukraine are currently subject of
political manoeuvring, not for the first time, as the West and
Moscow clash over a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Russia denies western accusations it is providing troops and
arms to rebels to fight Ukrainian forces. It accuses Kiev of
persecuting Russian speakers and instigating a conflict that has
cost over 6,200 lives since April last year.
Ukraine, which used to source almost all gas imports in
Russia, now covers more than 50 percent of its gas needs with
reverse flows from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
"Full Slovak reverse flow would allow Ukraine to end its
dependency on Gazprom and eventually import all of its gas from
the EU. This would ease tension and reduce the risk of gas
supply disruption for Ukraine and the EU," Yatseniuk said in the
Russia has halted gas flows to Ukraine three times in the
past decade - in 2006, 2009 and for six months last year -
because of price disputes with Kiev.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Additional reporting by Michael
Kahn, Tatiana Jancarikova; Writing by Alessandra Prentice;
editing by Ralph Boulton)