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Russian gas might stop again in July over dispute with Ukraine

THE SLOVAK Economy Ministry confirmed on June 22 that Slovakia may well face another natural gas crisis if Russia cuts all Europe-bound gas supplies through what it sees as its undisciplined customer Ukraine, the SITA newswire reported. The ministry said that Ukraine might fail to meet an early July payment deadline agreed in a deal in January 2009.

THE SLOVAK Economy Ministry confirmed on June 22 that Slovakia may well face another natural gas crisis if Russia cuts all Europe-bound gas supplies through what it sees as its undisciplined customer Ukraine, the SITA newswire reported. The ministry said that Ukraine might fail to meet an early July payment deadline agreed in a deal in January 2009.

“I can confirm that unless natural gas supplies are stopped for several months, Slovakia will not get into the trouble which the country found itself in during the January crisis,” said Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek as quoted by SITA.

Slovakia is one of only a few European countries buying 100 percent of its natural gas from Russia; Germany, for example, obtains less than half of its gas via routes crossing Ukraine. The lack of natural gas, according to Jahnátek, could, among other things, affect the chemical industry, which uses it as raw material, the TASR newswire wrote.

This is not the first time that the Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz had failed to pay for its gas supplies. Russia has previously shut off gas supplies on three occasions because of alleged payment arrears.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico assured Slovak customers that the gas utility Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) would not restrict its natural gas supplies.

He stressed, as quoted by SITA, that a potential halt in natural gas supplies will have negative impact on neither Slovak households nor industry.

Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák said that the European Union member countries would now be expected to produce crisis strategies.

SPP said its range of sources has been diversified since January and that in early July it would have as much gas in storage tanks as it normally does just ahead of winter.

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