Thursday, January 08, 2009


Putin is succeeding in creating chaos for Europe.

From the London Times:
Governments across Europe declared states of emergency and ordered factories to close as Russia cut all gas supplies through Ukraine yesterday in their worsening dispute over unpaid bills.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, accused the two countries of taking the EU’s energy supply “hostage” amid a cold snap across the Continent, and urged them to reopen the pipelines immediately.

Schools and factories were closed and trees were felled to keep home fires burning after Russia turned off the gas taps to more than a dozen countries. It was a clear demonstration of the dependence of the Continent on Russian gas supplies.

Despite temperatures as low as minus 27C and the threat of heating cuts to millions of households, Moscow said that it had no choice but to cease supplies because Ukraine, the country through which 80 per cent of Russian gas bound for Europe flows, had closed its pipelines. The claim was denied by Kiev.

Countries tapped into their reserves and urged the use of alternative fuels but at least 15,000 households in Bulgaria – which gets 92 per cent of its gas via the Ukrainian pipelines – found their heating cut off overnight.

Slovakia’s Government followed Bulgaria by announcing that it may have to restart a mothballed Soviet-era nuclear power plant.

The Balkan states, which rely almost completely on Russian gas and have failed to develop modern infra-structures or alternative energy sources, have been the hardest hit at the time of the Orthodox Christmas.

In Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, there were bitter memories of the Bosnian conflict from 1992-95, when the population cut down trees to try to stay warm or bought coal on the black market.

Sven Alkalay, the Bosnian Foreign Minister, said: “Four million of our citizens are in danger.” Almir Becarevic, the manager of the state gas company, said: “If this lasts it could turn into a humanitarian disaster. We pray that someone can find a solution.”

To try to restart supplies, the EU proposed yesterday that it should send independent monitors to watch the dials on the pipes at Ukraine’s borders. Russia claims that Ukraine is taking gas it has not paid for from the pipelines, reducing the onward supply to Europe. It has responded by cutting supplies in the pipeline by the amount it says Ukraine is stealing.

By checking how much gas is entering Ukraine from Russia and then measuring how much emerges at its western borders with Europe, the EU hopes to establish who is to blame for the shortages.

Yeah, good luck with that.

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