PRAGUE (Reuters) – The cat-and-mouse game between Europe and Russia on gas intensified on Wednesday with Slovakia saying its supply from Russia was down by a half and its prime minister calling the move part of a political fight.
Since September, Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom has sent less-than-requested deliveries to Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary – after the European Union began sending gas to Ukraine – in a clear warning from Moscow ahead of the winter heating season which officially starts today, when the industry switches to higher pricing.
The 50 per cent cut reported by Slovakia, a major transit point for Russian gas exports to Europe, was by far the deepest yet, and Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would call a crisis meeting of his government if the problems persisted. Fico, who normally has warm relations with Russia and has criticised EU sanctions against it, said he saw political factors behind the cuts.
“The Russian side talks about technical problems, about the necessity of filling up storage for the winter season,” Fico said. “I have used this expression and I will use it again: gas has become a tool in a political fight.”
There was no immediate comment from Rus-sian gas exporter Gazprom.
Slovakia’s western neighbour the Czech Republic became the latest former Soviet-bloc nation to experience reductions. RWE Czech Republic, its main gas importer, said it saw unspecified reductions on several days over the past week, although the flow seemed normal on Wednesday.