BERLIN — German utility company RWE said Tuesday it has started sending natural gas to Ukraine, a move that could support the country if Russia acts on its threat to cut off supplies because of a massive debt for past deliveries.
The reverse-flow deliveries from Germany via Poland are largely symbolic for the moment, but could be ramped up to provide about a fifth of the country’s gas needs.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine owes Russia $35.4 billion for gas — about 20 times more than Moscow had previously asked for. He said Russia may ask for Ukraine to start paying for gas in advance or face a shut-off.
About a third of the gas RWE AG will supply to Ukraine originally comes from Russia, said company spokesman Helmut Weintoegl. The rest comes from Norway, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.
RWE Supply & Trading is the first Western European company to begin gas deliveries to Ukraine this year, the Essen-based company said in a statement.
“Further significant volumes could be delivered to Ukraine if various transport restrictions at the Slovakian-Ukrainian border are politically and technically resolved within the next weeks or months,” the company said. Talks between senior officials from Slovakia and Ukraine failed to reach an agreement Tuesday, after the two sides couldn’t settle on which pipeline to use for the reverse-flow supply.
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