BEIJING, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Russia cut off all natural gas supplies
to Europe through Ukraine Wednesday, which has greatly affected gas supplies to
Russia is the world's largest natural gas producer and exporter. A
major consumer of Russian gas, Europe imports one fourth of its gas needs from
Russia. Russia has built a number of pipelines delivering gas produced in
Siberia and Central Asia to Europe.
Currently, there are three major export routes for Russian gas to be
transported to Europe. One consists of pipelines going through Ukraine. After
Ukraine, they extend westward to Slovak, the Czech Republic, Germany and
Austria, southward to Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.
The second route, known as the Yamal-Europe pipeline which bypasses
Ukraine, runs to Germany via Belarus and Poland. The third one, the Blue Stream
pipeline, passing through eastern Ukraine, goes underneath the Black Sea and
leads to Turkey.
Russian gas supplies to France, Britain, Italy and other European
countries are being delivered through gas pipeline networks of these countries.
However, due to historical and geographical reasons, all of Russia's
pipelines leading to Europe, except for Yamal-Europe, run through Ukrainian
territory. Each year, about 80 percent of Russian gas to Europe, or roughly 120
billion cubic meters, flows through Ukraine.
Apart from Ukraine, Russian gas can also be transported through
Yamal-Europe, although the pipeline's current capacity is just 30 billion cubic
meters annually. The Blue Stream pipeline has a designed annual capacity of just
16 billion cubic meters.
In recent years, Russian gas supplies to Europe have often been
affected as a result of rows between Russia and Ukraine over prices and transit
fees. In view of the situation, Russia has begun to seek alternative gas routes,
including the Nord Stream Pipeline, which runs to Germany via the Baltic Sea,
and the South Stream pipeline, which runs underneath the Black Sea and leads to
These pipeline projects would not only help diversify Russia's export
channels, but would also spare it the burden of transit fees.
However, as the pipelines are either still under construction or just
in the planning stages, Ukraine will remain a key transit point for Russian gas
supplies to Europe for the next few years.
In the wake of the flare-up of the latest Russian-Ukrainian gas row,
Russia has promised to guarantee gas supplies to Europe through other channels.
However, in the absence of swift effective measures, European countries this
time are likely to bear much of the impact of the Russian-Ukraine gas crisis.