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EU energy head urges diversity as cold hits Russian gas supply

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VIENNA, January 19 (RIA Novosti, Taras Lariokhin) - Europe should seek to diversify its energy supplies to limit its reliance on Russian gas, Austria's economic affairs and labor minister said Thursday, amid signs that Russia's struggle to meet domestic energy demand threatened to create shortages in the European markets.

"Russian natural gas will remain the backbone of European gas supplies. But we should strive for gas pipeline diversification and a search for alternative energy sources," Bartenstein, who is also the energy chairman of the European Union's Council of Ministers, said.

Bartenstein said the cold spell that plunged Russia's major energy demand centers into temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) had led to a 10% reduction in gas deliveries to Austria as Russian energy giant Gazprom diverted supplies to Russian consumers.

Russian gas fields and storage facilities were running at full capacity in an effort to meet record demand for power, Energy and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko said earlier.

The Austrian economy ministry said Russian gas deliveries to Italy had dropped by 5%, to Croatia by 10%, to Hungary by 20% and to Serbia and Montenegro by as much as 25%.

The minister said Austrian energy company OMV was controlling the situation on its domestic market and would look to use supplies from storage to compensate for any shortfalls.

Gazprom said Wednesday that its gas deliveries to Europe remained strictly in line with all contracts.

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