Russia could cut off gas to Finland this week, energy provider says

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May 18 (Reuters) - Russia could cut off gas supplies to Finland this week, Finland's state-owned energy provider Gasum said on Wednesday, in a row over Moscow's demand for countries to pay for gas in roubles and as Helsinki seeks NATO membership.

In a statement, Gasum said it had not received any information about the matter from Russia's Gazprom Export or from the Russian transmission operator, but that it was preparing for a scenario where Moscow cuts off gas late on Friday or on Saturday.

Gazprom did not respond to a request for comment.

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"Gasum will continue preparing for the situation together with its customers and the national authorities responsible for emergency supply," it said.

According to Interfax news agency, Russian gas exports to Finland averaged around 3.2 million cubic metres per day from Jan 1 - March 16.

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said last week Finland would apply to join the Western defence alliance NATO "without delay", prompting Russia to vow a response. read more

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that countries he terms "unfriendly" pay for gas in roubles or be cut off, with Moscow halting supplies to Bulgaria and Poland in April after they refused to do so.

The European Commission has said countries should not pay in roubles, and that complying with Russia's request could breach European Union sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine. read more

Gasum earlier said it would not accept Gazprom Export's demand to pay in roubles and therefore there was an increased risk that Russian gas flows to Finland could be halted. read more

Last Friday, Finland's emergency preparedness committee said it was ready to cope in the event that Russia cuts off its supply of natural gas. read more

Finland imports most of its gas from neighbouring Russia but gas accounts for only about 5% of its annual energy consumption.

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Reporting by Reuters;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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