Russia Halts Gas Supplies To Ukraine
After weeks of worthless foreplay whose outcome was known from the beginning despite just as worthless EU middleman Oettinger assuring everyone a deal was imminent any second now, overnight we got the long-anticipated mutual defection outcome and - as we warned - negotiations between Gazprom and Ukraine/EU fell apart with the Russian energy giant halting supplies to Ukraine unless Kiev prepays any and all gas deliveries from now on. Gazprom said it hadn't received payment for a debt it put at $4.458 billion by the Monday deadline it had set. "Ukraine will receive gas only in the amounts it has paid for," Gazprom said.
The reason for the collapse in talks: Kiev wants to pay $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas - the price it had been offered when Yanukovich was in power - but, in a compromise last week, said it would agree to pay $326 for an interim period until a lasting deal was reached. Moscow had sought to keep the price at the 2009 contract level of $485 per 1,000 cubic meters, but had offered to waive an export duty, bringing down prices by about one-fifth to $385, which brings it broadly into line with what Russia charges other European countries.
In other words, the delta was less than $60, and certainly a "fair" offer to Ukraine considering it is what Europe pays. However, it wasn't low enough for Kiev, which certainly is out of money once again having to spend the bulk of its IMF/EU aid to keep its military armed, and the only logical outcome - one in which the country would no longer receive something for nothing - transpired.
This hardly will be surprising to anyone: moments ago Gazprom CEO Miller added that Ukraine is unable to pay for its gas obligations in arrears, something the Ukraine side had confirmed previously when Miller added Kiev had been pumping Russian gas in its underground storage facilities at a blistering pace preparing for just this eventuality.
End result, a few hours ago, Gazprom made the following announcement: "Today, from 10:00 a.m. Moscow time, Gazprom, according to the existing contract, moved Naftogaz to prepayment for gas supplies ... Starting today, the Ukrainian company will only get the Russian gas it has paid for."
Gazprom also warned EU on "possible gas transit risks", meaning since all the gas sent to Europe transits Ukraine, it was quite possible Kiev would simply continue to siphon off Russian gas without paying for it. The problem there, however, is that the parties impacted would be Ukraine's BFFs: Germany, central Europe, and, of course, the UK. And what better way to sow discord among otherwise bosom friends than have them start fighting for Russia's energy scraps...
And now the question: how long before Ukraine's alleged 14 BCM in gas held in storage runs out and Kremlin once again has all the leverage. According to simple estimates, a few months at most, and certainly just in time for Ukraine's winter.
Gazprom said on Monday it had filed a lawsuit at the Stockholm arbitration court to try to recover the debt, while Ukraine's Naftogaz said it was filing a suit at the same court to recover $6 billion in what it said were overpayments.
A source at Gazprom said supplies to Ukraine had been reduced as soon as the deadline passed. EU data suggested that volumes were broadly stable as of 0630 GMT (7.30 a.m. BST), but it could take hours for data on Russian gas flows via Ukraine to reflect any reduction in supply in Slovakia or elsewhere.
Any reduction of supply could hit EU consumers, which get about a third of their gas needs from Russia, around half of it through pipelines that cross Ukraine. Earlier price disputes led to the 'gas wars' in 2006 and 2009 and Russian accusations that Ukraine stole gas destined for the rest of Europe.
"The gas for European consumers is being delivered at full volume and Naftogaz Ukraine is required to transit it," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told reporters.
Ukraine's Naftogaz declined to comment, saying it would issue a statement later in the day, but its pipeline operator Ukrtransgaz said it was operating normally.
The "market" was quick to react and "punish" Gazprom:
Russian shares fell on the talks' collapse, which will increase tensions between Moscow and the West and could make it harder to arrange a truce in east Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops are fighting rebels who want the region to be absorbed by Russia.
At 0740 GMT, the dollar-denominated RTS index was down 2.2 percent at 1344 points, while the rouble-based MICEX slid 1.7 percent to 1,476 points, with investors fearful of growing tensions after the failure of talks.
Western countries see the talks as a gauge of Putin's willingness to compromise and had been looking for signs that he was trying to avert the threat of more Western sanctions.
Tensions were already high following Russia's annexation of Crimea after Moscow-leaning president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted and pro-Western leaders took over power in Kiev.
And now that Russia has not only cut off Ukraine but is allegedly once again piling up troops at the border following this weekend's bloodiest escalation yet, it is surely time to BTFD and BTFATH at the same time, because very soon it will surely be time for "Mr Chairman/woman to get to work" and inject gobs more liquidity to give the impression that all is still well.
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