(Repeats to fix transmission glitch)
* Ukraine says reverse gas flows from EU down to 7 mcm daily
* Energy minister blames Gazprom “threat”
* Naftogaz says lower supplies “unpleasant but not critical” (Updates with Naftogaz, other detail)
By Pavel Polityuk
KIEV, July 23 (Reuters) - Ukraine said it was receiving less gas via reverse flows from the European Union, which Energy Minister Yuri Prodan blamed on reluctance by firms within the EU to antagonise Russian gas producer Gazprom, a heavy critic of the flows.
Ukraine uses around 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year and has increased efforts to secure more gas from the EU after Gazprom raised prices for its supplies in a spat which has added to the crisis in the ex-Soviet state.
Russia covered half of Ukraine’s gas needs last year. On June 16 it halted supplies to Ukraine over price disagreements and Kiev’s outstanding debt for earlier deliveries.
Prodan said on Wednesday Ukraine first noticed the decline in deliveries from Europe some two weeks ago and that reverse supplies stood at 7 million cubic metres (mcm) daily on Wednesday, versus a possible 18 million.
That compares to supplies of 16 mcm daily via reversed flows from the EU in June, including 12 mcm from Hungary, according to Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz.
“Reverse gas supplies are reduced at present. This is linked to certain actions by Gazprom,” Prodan told reporters. “You heard the threats Gazprom made to European energy companies that this reverse is illegal.”
Gazprom declined to comment on Wednesday. In April the company voiced doubts over the legality of reversed gas flows from the West to substitute for Russian supplies.
Gazprom head Alexei Miller said his company could curb supplies to Europe via Ukraine over reversed flows and denounced such movements as “semi-fraudulent”.
Naftogaz on Wednesday said flows from Poland were proceeding as usual but were lower from Hungary, which was filling its own storage. It did not attach blame to Gazprom.
“We hope the lowering of reverse flows is temporary,” Naftogaz head Andriy Kobolev told a briefing. “This is unpleasant but not critical.”
On April 28, Bratislava and Ukraine signed a deal allowing the EU to send a limited amount of gas to Ukraine. Bratislava said combined reverse flows from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland could reach up to around 16-17 bcm annually.
Naftogaz also said in June it hoped to be receiving 27 mcm of gas daily from Slovakia when the reverse flows start in September. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, additional reporting by Natalia Zinets,; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Keiron Henderson)