Malcolm Graham
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EU Need for Russian Gas Via Ukraine Wanes as Stores Fill

Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas shipments via Ukraine is declining after the region pumped a record volume of the fuel into underground inventories, minimizing the risk of shortages during the coming winter.

The blue line on the CHART OF THE DAY shows average daily flows at Velke Kapusany on the Slovakian-Ukrainian border, the biggest single entry point for Russian gas into the European Union, last month fell to a record, according to data from Slovak grid operator Eustream AS going back to 2011. The red histogram shows the 28-nation bloc has pumped a record volume of gas into storage, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe, a lobby group in Brussels.

Russia, which meets about 15 percent of Europe’s gas demand through Soviet-era pipelines across Ukraine, halted supplies to its neighbor on June 16 in a dispute over debt and prices, echoing similar spats in 2006 and 2009 that left European customers short of fuel. OAO Gazprom assumes countries that get their gas via Ukraine understood the possible risks in the spring and filled up storage sites at a faster pace, Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for the Russian pipeline gas export monopoly, said by phone on Sept. 3.

“Gazprom’s gas exports have dropped in the past few months because of faster gas purchases since May,” Valery Nesterov, a Moscow-based analyst at Sberbank Investment Research, said Sept. 5 by telephone. “There wasn’t much demand for Russian gas in the past two months.”

Natural gas flows from Russia to the EU haven’t been affected in the current crisis. Storage sites inSlovakia, which had to seek emergency imports after its supplies were cut in 2009, were 92 percent full on Sept. 4, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe.

Ukraine agreed on a cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists from 6 p.m. Kiev time Sept. 5, which would be the biggest breakthrough in the months-long conflict that has killed more than 2,600 people, displaced more than 1 million, and soured Russia’s relations with its former Cold War foes to the worst in more than two decades.