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Oil and Gas

UPDATE 2-Slovak PM says Russian gas supplies cut likely soon

* Ukraine may not be able to pay for June gas deliveries

* Gazprom says too early to talk of cutting supply in July

(Adds fresh Fico comments, context)

BRATISLAVA, June 22 (Reuters) - There was a high probability that Russian gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine will be cut again in the first week of July, the prime minister of Slovakia, a gas transit country, said on Monday.

Robert Fico said the disruption was likely because it was highly probable that Ukraine will not be able to pay Moscow for June gas deliveries.

Russia's Gazprom GAZP.MM said shortly after Fico's statement that it was very concerned about low gas storage levels in Ukraine and its ability to pay its gas bills, but it added it was too early to talk about cutting supplies in July.

Speaking to reporters, Fico said Slovakia should not fear a repeat of January, when it suffered worse than most European Union states when Russia shut off the taps over a mid-winter pricing dispute.

“An eventual suspension of gas supplies, which is highly probable at the end of the first week of July, will not have consequences for Slovak households or industry,” Fico said after a crisis committee met to evaluate preparations for a possible gas supply cut.

Russia supplies about 25 percent of the European Union’s gas consumption and about 80 percent of those supplies flow through Ukraine.

Slovak gas company SPP carried 75 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas in 2008, which represented around 20 percent of the EU’s annual consumption, SPP said.

The January gas crisis forced around 1,000 Slovak companies, including western car factories, to curb or shut production completely, one of the reasons the country’s economy contracted 5.6 percent in the first quarter.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said last week that Ukraine’s financial difficulties might lead to Russia’s cutting supplies next month, including gas intended for transit to Europe, just as it did in January.

Fico echoed Barroso statements that it was not the EU’s responsibility to help Ukraine pay for Russian gas imports.

“Sometimes, I have a feeling the entire Russia-Ukraine trade dispute is primarily about to make someone else pay,” Fico said. “But it is not our duty to step into this.”

Slovakia, which gets virtually all of its gas from Russia, is proceeding with plans to secure diversified routes for gas deliveries to avoid a repeat of the crisis, Fico said.

The central European country then averted an even worse hit by securing emergency gas supplies through a reverse flow in the pipelines that normally transit gas from the east to the west. (Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov in Moscow) (Reporting by Peter Laca; Editing by Michael Winfrey and William Hardy)

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