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Russia Blames Ukraine for Spreading European Gas Shortage


Italy is among several European nations suffering from a drop in Russian gas supplies. But Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom says it has been honoring its contracts and has blamed Ukraine for falling deliveries.

Italy's gas and oil company, ENI, says it expects its gas supplies from Russia to drop eight percent, which represents about 1.5 percent of national consumption.

Gas supplies continue to drop and Italian authorities are concerned with the situation, which comes just as a spell of cold weather spreads across the country.

Minister of Productive Activities Claudio Scajola said it is a difficult situation that began in early December due to cold weather conditions all over Europe and countries that supply Italy's gas.

While other countries, like Croatia and Hungary, have also announced shortfalls in their gas supplies, Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom insists supply reductions to European customers have not violated contracts.

Gazprom has blamed Ukraine for falling deliveries to Western nations, charging it is taking more gas than agreed from a key transit pipeline. Ukraine insists it is honoring all its transit obligations. About one quarter of Europe's gas comes from Russia.

Minister Scajola says not enough was done in Italy in recent decades to guarantee power autonomy to this country. He added that the government is doing its part to deal with this difficult situation.

The Italian cabinet is holding an extraordinary meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation. Exceptional measures are being discussed, including waiving environmental laws and allowing power plants to use fuel oil, which causes more pollution, so that gas can be saved.

The authorities have urged the population to collaborate to deal with the gas emergency. Also under study is a measure to force the reduction of heating systems by one or two degrees. The reduction of just one degree would save up to seven percent of gas supplies.