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Hungary Shuts Off Re-Export Of Natural Gas To Ukraine

An engineer oversees the gas distribution system of Hungary's gas pipeline operator FGSZ in Kiskundorozsma, in August. The distributor announced that it would cut off gas supplies to Ukraine. Laszlo Balogh/Reuters/Landov hide caption

toggle caption Laszlo Balogh/Reuters/Landov

An engineer oversees the gas distribution system of Hungary's gas pipeline operator FGSZ in Kiskundorozsma, in August. The distributor announced that it would cut off gas supplies to Ukraine.

Laszlo Balogh/Reuters/Landov

Hungary has "indefinitely" cut off its supply of natural gas to Ukraine, a move that Kiev's state gas firm has described as "unexpected and unexplained."

Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency cites Hungary's gas operator, FGSZ Ltd., saying that the pipeline cutoff "was made to meet the growing domestic demand."

However, The Financial Times notes that the gas was shut off "days after the head of Russia's Gazprom monopoly visited Budapest." FGSZ's move comes three days after Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest.

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller (left) and Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak wait for the start of gas talks between the EU, Russia and Ukraine in Berlin, on Friday. Thomas Peter/Reuters/Landov hide caption

toggle caption Thomas Peter/Reuters/Landov

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller (left) and Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak wait for the start of gas talks between the EU, Russia and Ukraine in Berlin, on Friday.

Thomas Peter/Reuters/Landov

Natural gas from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia has become crucial to Kiev since Gazprom suspended gas supplies to Ukraine in June, months after Moscow's annexation of the Crimea, due to a payment dispute, officials said. The supply disruption is of particular concern because of Ukraine's cold winters and its heavy reliance on natural gas for central heating in homes and buildings.

The FT says: "Poland and Slovakia have reported reductions in their supplies from Russia in recent weeks, apparently aimed at limiting their ability to re-export to Ukraine."

As NPR's Jackie Northam reported in May, Russia has been more than willing to use the "gas lever" as a weapon in its disputes with Kiev.

The BBC says:

"Earlier this year Gazprom and Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of consequences if EU member states went ahead with deliveries to Ukraine to replace Russian supplies.

"Russia says EU states are contractually forbidden from re-exporting gas to Ukraine while Brussels insists that such 'reverse flows' are legal."

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