KIEV, February 7 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine plans to buy more gas from Europe, starting imports via Slovakia and Hungary in the first quarter of this year, Energy and Coal Industry Minister Eduard Stavitsky said on Thursday.
“With Slovakia there are technical issues we are agreeing while all issues with Hungary have been actually resolved… We are counting on the first quarter,” Stavitsky said.
Ukraine already imports gas from Europe through Poland in a bid to reduce dependence on gas supplies from Russia, which is locked in a dispute with Kiev over the terms of its existing gas contracts.
Ukrainian media reported in January Kiev was considering importing gas through Slovakia, and also from liquefied natural gas terminals in Turkey via Bulgaria and Rumania. Stavitsky previously said Ukraine was working on two new routes for importing gas from Europe in a "reverse mode."
Kiev plans to buy gas not only from its current partner, Germany's RWE, which started supplies to Ukraine in November 2012, Stavitsky said. “Talks are underway and they are coming to a finish,” he said, without naming other possible suppliers.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said in January Kiev was interested in importing gas from Europe, because European contracts have no “take-or-pay” clauses or penalties for buying less gas than contracted - the core issue in Kiev's dispute with Russia over gas.
Ukrainian national energy company Naftogaz claimed in January Russia's Gazprom had presented Ukraine with a $7 billion bill for gas it had not used in 2012.
Russia and Ukraine have been in dispute over gas deliveries since the two states signed a supply contract in 2009. That contract stipulated Ukraine must pay for at least 33.3 billion cubic meters of gas on a "take or pay" basis.
The deal ties the price of gas to oil prices, which have risen strongly since 2009, boosting Ukraine's gas bill. Kiev claims the contract is unfair, and has insisted on reducing both the price and volume of its gas imports. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for exceeding her authority in signing that deal.