Now for a limited time: FREE GIFT to New Subscribers!       
May/June 2015 Current Moscow Time: 19:34:53
27 May 2015


  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gas Tussle

Sometimes it can be hard to get at the facts. And given that the western media went way down the wrong road on the recent Georgian crisis, one is inclined to be skeptical of coverage on the current Russia-Ukraine gas spat. Here is a nice summary of the facts by Reuters:

(Reuters) - A contract dispute between Russia and Ukraine has disrupted gas supplies to countries in the European Union, which gets about a fifth of its needs via pipelines through Ukraine.

WHY DID THE ROW START?

Russia and Ukraine failed to agree a new contract for gas supplies in 2009 before a New Year's Eve deadline set by Russian negotiators.

Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said during the talks it wanted to raise the price it charged Kiev from $179.5 to $250. Kiev said it did not want to pay that, and made any price rise conditional on Gazprom paying more for pumping gas to Europe across Ukrainian territory.

WHY IS THERE LESS GAS GOING TO EUROPEAN CONSUMERS?

Gazprom cut off all gas for Ukraine's domestic use on New Year's day. This is not as simple as it sounds: Ukraine's gas, goes through the same network of pipelines as the gas intended for customers in Europe.

So what Russia did was to reduce the total volumes it was pumping by the amount Ukraine imports. That meant a reduction from the usual 400 million cubic meters a day to about 300 mcm/day.

What happened next is under dispute. Russia accused Ukraine of stealing gas intended for Europe, and using it for its own needs. On Monday, it cut gas supplies going through Ukraine further, by about one sixth. It said this was equivalent to the amount Kiev was siphoning off. On Tuesday, Gazprom accused Kiev of unilaterally shutting down at least three major export pipelines.

Ukraine has a different account of events. It denied siphoning off gas, saying only it had used some gas intended for export to maintain pressure in the pipeline network.

It accused Russia of deliberately halting exports, putting under threat supplies to Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany.

HOW DOES THE GAS GET ACROSS UKRAINE TO EUROPE?

Over 80 percent of Russia's gas exports to the European Union go via Ukraine.

There is a complex network of pipelines, but put simply there are two main routes. One goes West through Slovakia and from there to the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, France, Italy and other countries.

The second goes south to the Balkans and south-eastern Europe -- the regions worst hit by the supply disruptions.

The Balkan pipeline is more vulnerable to the cuts of Russian supplies because there are no gas storage facilities at the inlet of the export route.

Pipelines running from Ukraine into Slovakia are linked to the huge underground gas storage facilities of Western Ukraine, therefore supplies are more secure.

In addition to these routes, there are separate pipelines from Ukraine to Hungary, Poland and Romania.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER GAS PIPELINES TO EUROPE?

Russia said it was compensating for reductions in exports to Europe by pumping gas through alternative routes. But it was not clear these routes had the capacity to cover the shortfall. These are the other routes:

YAMAL-EUROPE - Goes from Siberia via Belarus to Poland and Germany, Europe's biggest economy. Capacity 33 bcm/year or around 100 mcm per day. Gazprom has increased exports through Yamal to help compensate for lower flows through Ukraine.

BLUE STREAM - Goes from Russia along the bed of the Black Sea to Turkey. Capacity 16 bcm/year or around 50 mcm per day. Gazprom says it was also adding capacity through the Blue Stream pipeline.
 
May 8, 2015
70 Years After Victory, the Battle for Stalingrad Rages On
70 Years After Victory, the Battle for Stalingrad Rages On
By Alice E.M. Underwood

The Battle for Stalingrad turned the tide of WWII in the Allies’ favor. Marked by the loss of nearly 2 million lives, it is one of the most devastating battles of human history. Yet it also continues to be embroiled in controversy, given the complex relationship Russians have toward Josef Stalin. 

Read More
Tags: stalin, wwii, war, stalingrad
May 7, 2015
The Controversial Composer
The Controversial Composer
By Richard Taruskin

The personal and professional have become increasingly intertwined in considerations of the life and work of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Music historian Richard Taruskin shows that this is nothing new – it all began shortly after the master composer's death.

Read More
Tags: music, history, tchaikovsky
May 7, 2015
The Most Useful Russian Inventions
The Most Useful Russian Inventions
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

What do radio, television, the periodic table, and helicopters have in common? Russians were involved in developing all of them – and more!

Read More
Tags: inventions, science
April 17, 2015
How Well Do You Know Russian Fairy Tale Characters?
How Well Do You Know Russian Fairy Tale Characters?
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Sure, everyone knows the name Baba Yaga. But do you know where she lives? Do you know Koschey the Immortal, or Zmey Gorynych? How well do you know the spirits of the forest? Read up on these key characters of Russian fairy tales!

Read More
Tags: fairy tales
March 28, 2015
Smoktunovsky: Portrait of an Actor
Smoktunovsky: Portrait of an Actor
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

A generation of Soviets grew up seeing the face of actor Innokenty Smoktunovsky in his varied roles, both on screen and on stage. But what was his actual life like? In this snippet, he gives a taste of the trials he underwent as a soldier fighting the Nazis.

Read More
Tags: world war ii, smoktunovsky, memoir
March 8, 2015
International Women's Day: A Look Back
International Women's Day: A Look Back
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Tired of having to do Valentine's Day and Mother's Day separately? Try it the Russian way and combine them into International Women's Day! A closer look at this convenient holiday's socialist origins and not-so-socialist present form.

Read More
Tags: russia, holiday, women, socialism