London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Slovakia has agreed to deliver natural gas to Ukraine following talks in Kiev on Saturday, according to a statement published on Slovakian pipeline operator Eustream’s website.
The deal, between Eustream, Ukraine’s state gas company Naftogaz and its subsidiary pipeline operator, Ukrtransgaz, will implement reverse gas supply to Ukraine from and through Slovakia using mainly the Vojany–Uzhgorod pipeline.
Up to a fifth of Ukraine’s gas needs could be supplied through that currently unused stretch of pipeline. In talks in Kiev on April 24–26, European Commissioner for Energy Günter Oettinger had asked Slovakia to ship up to 10 billion cubic meters of gas by the end of 2015.
Eustream chair Tomáš Mareček has promised to ship over 3 billion cubic meters this year, with delays in the first shipments anticipated as technical adjustments are made to the pipeline.
Ukraine had wanted Slovakia to use four pipelines that deliver gas from Russia through Ukraine to Slovakia and Western Europe supplied by Russia’s Gazprom, which Slovakia said would violate its existing contracts with the Russian state gas company.
But Ukraine must still find gas to ship through the pipeline, amid larger energy security fears in Europe due to the ongoing tensions with Russia, Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.
Germany’s RWE is pumping small amounts of gas through Poland, and could begin larger deliveries once the Slovak deal is signed on Monday.
Ukraine is trying to secure alternate gas supplies after Russia’s state-owned Gazprom doubled gas prices in March. The cash-strapped Ukrainian government has refused to pay, and this week Russia issued the country a May 7 deadline to either make 3.5 billion US dollars in back payments or begin paying for its gas in advance. A ministerial meeting between the EU, Russia and Ukraine on the Ukrainian payments is expected to be held in Brussels early this week.