EU seeking to ensure gas supply to Ukraine, Commission says

European commission President Ursula von der Leyen address a media conference at the conclusion of EU- Western balkans summit in Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia, October 6, 2021. /Handout via REUTERS

KYIV, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The European Union is looking at different ways to ensure Ukraine has a steady supply of natural gas this winter and is not exposed to any reduction in Russian output, the bloc's chief executive said on Tuesday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said reverse flows could come from Slovakia, which since September 2014 has had an interconnector with Ukraine.

"The Commission, together with Ukrainian experts, is exploring, right now, different scenarios to secure sufficient supply for Ukraine," von der Leyen said in a statement alongside Ukraine's president.

"We will also work closely with you ... to increase gas supply capacity coming from member states of the European Union. And this also includes the option of working on arrangements to reverse the flow of an additional gas pipeline from Slovakia," she said.

Ukraine was hosting EU leaders at a summit in Kyiv where the two parties also signed an aviation agreement.

The summit took place at a time when Ukraine is lobbying its Western allies to punish Russia for what it says is Moscow's attempt to use gas supplies as a weapon against Europe.

Energy concerns also sparked a bilateral row between Ukraine and its EU neighbour Hungary last month, after Budapest signed a new long term energy deal with Russia that sidelined Ukraine as a transit country. The deal also brings into question Ukraine's ability to take reverse flows of Russian gas from Hungary.

Ukraine wants the EU to investigate the deal, arguing it could violate EU energy rules, and also wants Europe and the United States to block the launch of the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, which also lessens Moscow's need to pipe via Ukraine.

The EU has supported Ukraine in its standoff with Moscow after Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region.

But Brussels has urged Ukraine to speed up its domestic reforms and tackle corruption in exchange for support.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Matthias Williams in Kyiv and Robin Emmott in Brussels; editing by Jason Neely

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