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Russian gas to Poland drops mysteriously by almost a quarter

Russian gas deliveries to Poland were down 24 percent this week, Poland's gas monopoly said Wednesday. It remains unclear as to why Russian gas supplies to Poland were nearly a quarter lower than normal, and the drop is having knock-on effects in Ukraine.

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    The company logo of Russian natural gas producer Gazprom is seen on an advertisement in front of the White House in Moscow. Gazprom issued a statement denying any drop in Russian gas exports to Poland.
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Russian natural gas deliveries to Poland have dropped by almost a quarter this week, Poland's gas monopoly said Wednesday, though the reason remained unclear.

Sergei Kupriyanov, spokesman for Russian supplier Gazprom, issued a statement denying any drop in gas exports to Poland. He said Gazprom is shipping the same amount of gas — 23 million cubic meters a day — as before.

The deliveries arrive through pipelines that cross Ukraine and Belarus. The drop in supplies comes at a time of conflict in Eastern Ukraine between Ukraine's army and Moscow-backed rebels. Poland and the rest of the European Union support the Ukrainian authorities. European officials are meeting in Brussels today to discuss additional sanctions on Russia, which are expected to target its largely state-run energy sector.

Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, citing unpaid bills, but allows gas to transit through its pipelines to customers in the rest of Europe, such as Poland.

But Poland's gas company said Monday that the supplies it was receiving were 20 percent below the contracted amounts. On Tuesday they were 24 percent too low. It is making up for the shortfall with gas from other European markets.

The drop in supplies is also having a knock-on effect on gas Poland sells on to Ukraine in a system known as "reverse flow." Poland and other European countries send some of the Russian gas they receive back to Ukraine to help the country cover its energy needs. On Wednesday, Ukraine's gas transit company said it was not receiving such reverse gas supplies from Poland.

"Naftogaz is continuing discussions with [Polish gas operator] Gaz System and European companies supplying gas to Ukraine via Poland to clarify the situation," Naftogaz, Ukraine's state-owned gas company, said in a statement Wednesday. "The parties are set to agree on a gas flows recovery schedule and to develop an action plan to address such occurrences in the future." 

Other countries that receive Russian gas through Ukraine or Belarus, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Lithuania, did not immediately report similar drops in supplies.

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The International Energy Agency said it was checking for any other reports of gas delivery reductions and the possible cause.

Last year, Poland bought some 8.9 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, covering about 60 percent of its needs. Poland meets another 30 percent of its demand with gas it produces itself, and the remainder comes from other European countries, mainly Germany and the Czech Republic. Poland also has some 2.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas stored in gas tanks.

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Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Lori Hinnant in Paris, Karel Janicek in Prague, Karl Ritter in Stockholm and Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius contributed to this report.

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