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Gazprom Says Ukraine May Be Responsible For Gas Cuts To Europe

General director of GazpromEksport Aleksandr Medvedev
A senior official at Russian fuel giant Gazprom says excess consumption of natural gas in Ukraine may be responsible for reduced fuel deliveries to European Union nations.

Aleksandr Medvedev, general director of GazpromEksport, was quoted as saying that, given the severe winter conditions in Russia and in Europe, the company had raised exports of gas "to the maximum."

In comments carried by the Interfax news agency he said that Ukraine, which controls transit pipes carrying gas to Europe, "right now is consuming gas at volumes...well above levels allowed by contract."

More than 80 percent of Russian gas deliveries to the European Union travel through Ukraine's pipeline network.

The Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz denied it was tapping into gas destined for Europe.

In the past, pricing disputes between Russia and Ukraine have threatened gas supplies to several European countries.

This occurred in 2006 and again in 2009.

Cold Weather Claims More Lives

Meanwhile, Austria's OMV energy firm said that deliveries of Russian gas were down 30 percent amid ongoing cold weather.

Besides Austria, Italy, Germany, and Slovakia have reported cutbacks in deliveries of Russian gas, but EU officials said that all affected countries were topping off their needs from other supplies

Elsewhere, temperatures continue to dip as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius across portions of Eastern Europe, which has seen the highest number of weather-related deaths.

Officials in Ukraine said on February 2 that the number of deaths from hypothermia had risen to 63.

In Serbia, severe weather has killed seven people and left nearly 12,000 stranded in remote villages.

Polish police say nine people have died from the cold since January 31, bringing Poland's death toll to 29.

Compiled from agency reports