* Poland says not getting requested levels of gas from Gazprom
* Gazprom says not able to supply volumes requested by Poland
* Gazprom is testing Polish resolve - Polish deputy PM
* Gas flows from Poland to Ukraine sustained - operator
* Slovakia says still sees lower supplies on Saturday (Adds Polish deputy PM)
By Marcin Goettig and Jason Bush
WARSAW/MOSCOW, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Polish Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski said on Saturday that recent disruptions in gas supplies from Russia were an attempt by state-controlled Gazprom to test Polish resolve.
Poland, at odds with Russia over a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine, was forced to suspend gas flows to Ukraine for two days earlier this week after gas importer PGNiG said it had not been receiving the volumes of gas requested from Gazprom since Monday.
“I think that the temporary disruptions of the recent days were in fact an attempt from the eastern supplier to test Poland’s reaction,” Piechocinski told a press conference on Saturday.
Russian gas giant Gazprom said on Saturday it was not able to supply Poland with the volumes of natural gas it was requesting and could only deliver levels closer to daily minimum allowed under the contract.
Poland, one of the most vocal critics in the European Union of Kremlin actions in the Ukraine crisis, depends on Russian gas imports for the majority of its consumption. PGNiG’s 2013 annual report shows gas imported from Gazprom accoutred for 54 percent of total sales at 16.2 billion cubic meters.
Energy analysts in Warsaw have said Russia may be using deliveries to Poland to send Europe a tentative warning it will retaliate if Brussels goes through with new sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine. The West accuses the Kremlin of fomenting a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine; something Moscow denies.
In Slovakia, the main entry point for Russian supplies to the EU, importer SPP saw a roughly 10 percent decrease in gas supplies from Russia for a fourth day in a row on Saturday, a spokesman said.
Romania’s Energy Minister Razvan Nicolescu said on Saturday Gazprom had scrapped a plan to cut gas exports to Romania by 9 percent on Saturday and by 5 percent on Sunday.
Gazprom had notified Romania of the intended cuts on Friday.
Poland’s state gas pipeline operator said that gas flows from the eastern direction were stable on Friday compared to Thursday at about 20 million cubic metres (mcm), but were still below what the Polish gas importer PGNiG has requested. Gazprom is Poland’s sole gas supplier from the east.
The pipeline operator Gaz-System said also that despite the gap between PGNiG’s requests and actual deliveries, gas flows via Poland to Ukraine were not affected. To offset lower flows from the east, Poland increased imports from Germany and the Czech Republic.
“The increased requests of PGNiG are still not being met,” Gaz-System’s spokeswoman Malgorzata Polkowska said on Saturday.
“But Poland is receiving from all import points more gas than its daily consumption. Gas is being sent to Ukraine without problems in amounts ordered by the client.”
Poland resumed natural gas deliveries to Ukraine on Friday after receiving a pledge that Russia’s Gazprom would deliver requested supplies.
Disputes with Kiev have prompted Russia to halt gas flows to Ukraine three times in the past decade including stoppages in 2006, 2009 and since June this year. So far in the latest standoff, flows via Ukraine for EU have been unaffected.
Opening up gas flows eastward was part of the EU’s response to Gazprom’s decision to cut supplies to Kiev. Poland and Hungary can also send gas to Ukraine but the Slovak link boasts the biggest capacity of the three.
The pipeline which is used to transport gas from Poland’s system to Ukraine has a daily capacity of 4 mcm. Ukraine is purchasing this gas from Germany’s RWE under a deal allows for the flows to stop in case of a shortage of gas in Poland.
Poland, which is looking to diversify its gas imports away from Russia, and wants its LNG terminal in the port city of Swinoujscie on the Baltic coast to start accepting first deliveries of LNG by end June-2015.
“We have performed huge work over the last few years () because we wanted Polish security, also gas security to be based upon very solid fundamentals,” Poland’s Piechocinski also said.
“In 2016, any serious attempts to reduce gas supplies from the eastern direction will not be damaging for the Polish economy.”
The Polish terminal will have an initial capacity of 5 billion cubic metres of LNG per year, about a third of annual consumption. Poland is also spending millions of dollars on developing its shale gas deposits, with little success so far.
Gazprom gave no reason on Saturday for its inability to deliver the gas, but earlier this week said it was exporting gas subject to available resources and pumping to storage facilities in Russia.
“They are requesting the maximum, and we are only able to supply closer to the daily minimum,” a Gazprom spokesman told Reuters asked about Poland’s requests for gas.
Poland’s PGNiG said earlier this week that the volumes of gas it was requesting were below maximum levels allowed under its contract with Gazprom.
Gazprom, which meets about a third of the European Union’s gas demand, said earlier this week it had been pumping the same amount to Poland as the previous week although Reuters data showed Russian gas flows to Poland this month are down 12 percent.
Supplies this summer have also been lower than last year, although they are significantly higher than two years ago. Utility traders said the recent drop-off has been within the contractual norms. (Reporting by Jason Bush and Marcin Goettig; Writing by Marcin Goettig; editing by Ralph Boulton)