Europe Feels Pain Of Russia-Ukraine Gas Spat The dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the price of natural gas is starting to cause energy shortages in many European countries. The European Union has called on Moscow and Kiev to solve their disagreement, which comes just as a winter freeze envelops much of the continent.

Europe Feels Pain Of Russia-Ukraine Gas Spat

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..TEXT: From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.


The standoff between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas is causing energy shortages across Europe. The two countries are in the midst of a price dispute. Russia's gas company, Gazprom, has now stopped all shipments of natural gas through Ukraine. And it's through those pipelines that lots of gas reaches Europe. Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Europe is in the grip of a bitter cold spell. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed because of snow and ice. And in Berlin, temperatures dropped to minus four Fahrenheit. So, the news that Gazprom had shut off the taps got as much attention here as the fighting in Gaza. Speaking on French Radio, historian Pierre Marie Crespar(ph) fulminated about the crisis.


BLOCK: (Through Translator) Russia is deep in debt. It needs money, but the Ukrainians don't have any. More than that, Moscow can't stand the fact that its former territory wants to join NATO. So now, Russia is turning Gazprom into what the Red Army used to be for the Soviet Union, an instrument of intimidation and pressure.

BEARDSLEY: France gets less than 20 percent of its gas from Russia. But in Germany, Europe's largest economy, the figure is twice that. German energy firms warned today that there could be gas shortages if the dispute drags on and subzero temperatures persist. But the countries worst hit by the gas feud are those in central and southeast Europe. And Bulgaria and Slovakia, which get all their gas from Russia, have declared states of emergency. In Bulgaria, at least 10,000 people have no heat in their homes. Galina Tosheva is Bulgaria's deputy energy minister.

BLOCK: We have lost 100 percent of the gas supplies coming through the route from Ukraine. We have gas storage, so we could use some quantities from the gas storage. But the quantities cover not more than 30, 35 percent of the daily demand in the country.

BEARDSLEY: The European Union is furious. The EU accused both Russia and Ukraine of using consumers across Europe as pawns in their quarrel. Johannes Laitenberger is an EU spokesman.

BLOCK: Without prior warning and in clear contradiction with the reassurances given by the highest Russian and Ukrainian authorities to the European Union, gas supplies have been cut. This situation is completely unacceptable.

BEARDSLEY: Just two years ago, a similar dispute between Russia and Ukraine cut off gas supplies to Europe for three days. That crisis led to criticism of Russia as an unreliable energy partner, and spurred talk of finding ways to diversify the continent's energy supply. But nothing has really been done, says Ian Cronshaw, an analyst with the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

BLOCK: Up until recently, Russia has been an extremely reliable supplier of more than 40 years, starting back in the 1960s almost at the height of the Cold War. Now Europe is making efforts to build more pipelines, but Europe does need to do much more in terms of diversifying its power supply, to diversify its sources of imports, and to make its market work much, much more efficiently so that gas can be moved around between different countries in the event of shortages.

BEARDSLEY: Cronshaw says a perfect example of Europe's inaction is the Nabucco Pipeline. The project would bring natural gas 2,000 miles from central Asia to Europe without going through either Russia or Ukraine. The pipeline was due to be completed in 2013, but construction hasn't even begun. For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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