KIEV, November 13 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s energy minister said Wednesday that his country has enough natural gas to last until year’s end and has no need for immediate purchases of the fuel from Russia.
Eduard Stavytsky said that gas storage facilities in Ukraine are full, meaning that the ex-Soviet country can suspend Russian imports until 2014.
Media reported earlier this week that Ukraine, one of the largest consumers of Russian gas, had stopped imports on November 9.
Stavytsky said the falling demand for energy in from Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz was due to unseasonably warm weather.
“The demand for gas is almost 45 percent lower than Naftogaz had planned,” he said.
The halt to imports comes at a time of increased tension between Moscow and Kiev. Earlier this month, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said there was a crisis in Ukrainian-Russian energy relations and demanded that Kiev pay an outstanding $882 million gas bill.
Political analysts have linked the possible flare-up of a new gas dispute with ongoing Russian efforts to persuade Ukraine to join the Moscow-led Customs Union trade bloc, which currently includes Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Ukraine has indicated that it may opt instead to sign a series of free-trade and association deals with the European Union later this month. The move could dilute its economic dependency on Russia.
The EU deal is looking under threat, however, as Ukrainian lawmakers tarry over measures to approve a rule enabling jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to leave the country for medical treatment, which European officials have insisted upon.