Ukraine has declared it will suspend the flow of Russian gas through a transit passing through its country.
Blaming Moscow for the move, Ukraine which handles almost a third of the fuel piped from Russia to Ukraine, said it would stop shipments via the Sokhranivka route from Wednesday, declaring “force majeure”, a clause invoked when a business is hit by something beyond its control.
Ukraine has remained a major transit route for Russian gas to Europe even after Moscow’s invasion.
Sergiy Makogon, the CEO of GTSOU, which operates Ukraine’s gas system, said Russian forces had started taking gas transitioning through Ukraine and sending it to two Russia-backed separatist regions in the country’s east.
The company said it could not operate at the Novopskov gas compressor station due to “the interference of the occupying forces in technical processes”, adding it could temporarily shift the affected flow to the Sudzha physical interconnection point located in territory controlled by Ukraine.
Kyiv’s suspension of Russian natural gas flows should not have an impact on the domestic Ukrainian market, however, state energy firm Naftogaz head Yuriy Vitrenko told Reuters.
The state gas company in Moldova, a small nation on Ukraine’s western border, said it had not received any notice from GTSOU or Gazprom that supplies would be interrupted.
The Novopskov compressor station in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine has been occupied by Russian forces and separatist fighters since soon after Moscow began what it describes as a “special military operation” in February.
The compressor is the first in Ukraine’s gas transit system and carries around 32.6 million cubic meters of gas a day, or a third of the Russian gas which is piped to Europe through Ukraine, GTSOU said.
GTSOU said that in order to fulfill its “transit obligations to European partners in full” it would “temporarily transfer unavailable capacity” to the Sudzha interconnection point.
Gazprom said it had received notification from Ukraine that the country would stop the transit of gas to Europe via the Sokhranivka interconnector from Wednesday morning but said it saw no proof of force majeure or obstacles to continuing. The Russian gas giant added that it was meeting all obligations to buyers of gas in Europe.
The United States has urged countries to lessen their dependence on Russian energy and has banned Russian oil and other energy imports in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine.
In its latest tranche of sanctions, the EU announced it would reduce its dependence on Russian oil with intentions to stop buying supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year. It has already decided to implement a full ban on Russian coal, but has not yet taken steps against Russian natural gas.
However, Ukrainian officials called on the EU and other western leaders to go further in banning Russian energy.
Oleg Ustenko, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief economic advisor, said: “Ukrainians have watched in disbelief as our partners in the European Union continued to purchase Russian fossil fuels, funding war crimes in our country to the tune of €1 billion every day,” he said.
“We now finally see action. Yet still, companies are trading Russian fossil fuels, shipping and piping huge quantities of Russian oil, gas and coal around the world. We have a simple message for these companies – we are watching you. Ukraine will not forget who those who supported us, nor will we forget those who chose Putin’s side.”