Gas row prompts action

Greece is not in danger of being affected by a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices, as it has already sought alternative solutions, officials told Kathimerini yesterday, but the government expressed its concern over the matter through diplomatic channels. Many European countries were yesterday bracing for gas shortages after Russia’s state gas company OAO Gazprom cut deliveries to neighboring Ukraine, which acts as a transit country for Russian gas. The Russians accused the Ukrainians of siphoning off gas illegally. The Ukrainians said the Russians were charging too much for the fuel. Gazprom’s cutback has led to shortfalls of up to 40 percent in some European countries and has forced Greece’s neighboring state, Serbia and Montenegro, to enforce rationing. The Russian energy giant promised normal service would return by tonight but Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas met the Russian and then the Ukrainian envoys in Athens yesterday to convey the government’s disquiet on the matter. He told both diplomats that Greece fully supported the EU’s position that the two sides should reach an agreement on prices and guarantee unlimited gas supplies. The use of natural gas has recently increased in Greece but the country still uses a relatively small amount. In 2004, Greece used 2.78 billion cubic meters of gas, compared to Austria which used almost four times as much. However, 79 percent of Greece’s gas was supplied by Russia and Sioufas said that if the dispute worsens, Greece could be affected. But he added that there are supplies of gas stored on the islet of Revythousa in the Saronic Gulf, which would last for two weeks if Russian supplies to Greece were cut off completely. Managing Director of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) Asimakis Papageorgiou said that precautions were being taken. «We have secured an immediate increase in the amount of gas we receive from Algeria,» he said. Algeria supplies Greece with 20 percent of its gas. He said Gazprom had ensured in writing that its supplies to DEPA would not be affected.

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