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Gazprom Chairman Sold All His Shares Just Before Russia Invaded Crimea | Zero Hedge

Gazprom Chairman Sold All His Shares Just Before Russia Invaded Crimea | Zero Hedge.

We are sure it is just coincidence – and awkward combination of luck and suspicious timing – but Vedomosti reports that Viktor Zubkov, the Chairman of Russia’s massive energy monopoly Gazprom, dumped his entire stake in the company just a few weeks before Vladimir Putin crossed the red line. Gazprom shares have dropped 25% in the last 3 weeks so his timing was impeccible.

 

 

Via Vedomosti (Google Translate),

The Chairman of the Board of Directors “Gazprom” Viktor Zubkov has sold his stake in the company, it follows from the monopoly.

The change in share occurred February 11, 2014, the issuer learned about it on March 13.

Now Zubkov 0% stake in the company.

Thus, Zubkov sold his shares prior to the collapse of the Russian stock market on March 3.

It’s good to have friends running the country eh? Thank you Mr. Putin. This is important as so many Western watchers believe a crumbling Russia stock market will prompt Putin to back away… it appears his Oligrach friends already got the nod…

Warning Shots Fired At OSCE Mission In Crimea; Russia Threatens Treaty Force Majeure Over "Unfriendly NATO Threats" | Zero Hedge

Warning Shots Fired At OSCE Mission In Crimea; Russia Threatens Treaty Force Majeure Over “Unfriendly NATO Threats” | Zero Hedge.

Perhaps it is time to finally admit that anyone who thought Putin’s Tuesday press conference, which the market so jubilantly assumed was a case of “blinking” and de-escalating tensions with the west, was wrong. If there is still any confusion, following yesterday’s news that Gazprom officially threatened Ukraine with cutting off its gas supplies, as well as the storming of a Ukraine base by Russian troops – luckily with no shots fired so far – then today’s developments should any remaining doubts. Moments ago AP reported that as the latest, third in a row, group of OSCE inspectors tried to enter Ukraine, they were not only barred from doing so, but warnings shots were fired to emphasize the point by pro-Russian forces.

From AP:

An Associated Press reporter says pro-Russian forces refused to let a foreign military mission enter Crimea on Saturday.

After the officers had stopped, the armed men fired warning bursts of automatic weapons fire into the air to make other unidentified vehicles halt. No injuries were reported.

The multinational group of military officers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was attempting to enter the embattled peninsula from the north. The armed men told them they had no authorization to enter Crimea.

The OSCE mission will likely return to the Ukrainian city of Kherson where it had spent the night, the AP reporter said.

Russia and Ukraine are locked in a tense standoff over Crimea.

Bloomberg adds:

OSCE tried to enter Crimea for third day, warning shots were fired as it attempted to do so today, Tatyana Baeva, OSCE spokeswoman, said by phone from Vienna.

Nobody injured in incident, OSCE mission is now back in Kherson, southern Ukraine.

OSCE 29 member states that provided people for Crimea mission may meet today or tomorrow in Vienna to discuss further action: Baeva

Then there was this overnight escalation as reported by Ukraine’s TV5 station (of questionably credibility), via Bloomberg:

Pro-Russian armed men today captured building in Simferopol, capital city of Crimea, TV5 private news channel reports, citing Vladislav Selezniov, spokesman for Ukraine’s defense minister in Crimea.

Russian soldiers seized Ukraine’s state border guard division in Shcholkino near Kerch Strait, Ukraine’s border service says in statement on its website

Russian soldiers stormed Shcholkino unit last night, seized weapons storage, beat Ukrainian border guards, took away their mobile phones and forced them and their families to leave

Currently, 11 border guard units are being blocked: Ukraine border service says in separate statement

Ukraine denied entrance to 513 “extremists” from Russia during last 24 hrs, state border guard service says in another separate statement on its website

Remember, all it takes is for one stray bullet to hit a human target, on either side of the conflict, for the market to grasp just how wrong its assessment of de-escalation has been.

Elsewhere, while inspectors were trying to make their way into Ukraine – unsuccessfully – Russia announced it was considering a further freeze of U.S. military inspections under arms control treaties in retaliation to Washington’s decision to halt military cooperation with Russia, news reports said Saturday.

Interfax blasted earlier:

  • UNJUSTIFIED U.S., NATO THREATS SEEN AS UNFRIENDLY GESTURE, ALLOW TO DECLARE FORCE-MAJEURE – RUSSIAN DEFENSE SOURCE
  • RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CONSIDERING SUSPENSION OF RECEIVING INSPECTION GROUPS UNDER START TREATY, VIENNA DOCUMENT 2011 – SOURCE

AP has more:

Russian news agencies carried a statement by an unidentified Defense Ministry official saying that Moscow sees the U.S. move as a reason to suspend U.S. inspections in Russia in line with the 2010 New START treaty on cutting U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and the 2011 Vienna agreement that envisages mutual inspections of Russian and NATO military facilities as part of confidence-building measures.

A Defense Ministry spokesman wouldn’t comment on the reports, which are a usual way in Russia to carry unofficial government signals.

The U.S. and the European Union have introduced sanctions over Russia in response to its move to send troops that have taken control of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

So if the START treaty is suspended how long until its anti-proliferation clauses are scrapped completely once more, and the Cold War arms race returns once again.

Also, while escalations such as these threaten to transform the new Cold War into a hot one, the clock is ticking, and in favor of Russia, because the longer Ukraine remains without western aid, the quicker its foreign reserves will run out, and the faster the country will become a vassal state of Gazpromia. Add the ticking countdown to the March 16 Crimean referendum, which the west and Ukraine have both declared illegitimate yet have no power to stop, and suddenly one can see how Putin once again outsmarted everything the west had to throw at it. WSJ explains:

Gazprom’s demand raises the prospect that some of the aid Western powers have guaranteed could end up flowing into Moscow’s coffers to pay Ukraine’s gas bill. Virtually all of the country’s natural-gas imports come from Russia. Late last year it was granted a discount that Moscow has threatened to rescind since the fall of Mr. Yanukovych.

“This now becomes an EU/U.S. problem: Who is going to lend Ukraine the money to pay the gas bill? If so, what will be the conditions?” said Jonathan Stern, an analyst at the Oxford Energy Institute.

A spokesman for Gazprom said that the threatened cutoff wouldn’t affect supplies to Europe, which gets about a third of its gas from Russia, much of it via pipelines that run through Ukraine.

 

 

In 2009, after the Russian energy giant switched off the supply to Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities began using the supply transiting their territory that Gazprom said was destined for customers in Europe. Gazprom then cut off the flow altogether, causing shortages and price increases for end customers.

 

“The EU, U.S. and IMF have just about three weeks to resolve this,” Mr. Stern said.

At which point it’s game, set match Putin once more.

Finally, what certainly helped Russia is that, as expected, China took the side of Putin, not of the “free world”, in what is now a very distinct and clear axis of power the New Normal dipolar world.

Warning Shots Fired At OSCE Mission In Crimea; Russia Threatens Treaty Force Majeure Over “Unfriendly NATO Threats” | Zero Hedge

Warning Shots Fired At OSCE Mission In Crimea; Russia Threatens Treaty Force Majeure Over “Unfriendly NATO Threats” | Zero Hedge.

Perhaps it is time to finally admit that anyone who thought Putin’s Tuesday press conference, which the market so jubilantly assumed was a case of “blinking” and de-escalating tensions with the west, was wrong. If there is still any confusion, following yesterday’s news that Gazprom officially threatened Ukraine with cutting off its gas supplies, as well as the storming of a Ukraine base by Russian troops – luckily with no shots fired so far – then today’s developments should any remaining doubts. Moments ago AP reported that as the latest, third in a row, group of OSCE inspectors tried to enter Ukraine, they were not only barred from doing so, but warnings shots were fired to emphasize the point by pro-Russian forces.

From AP:

An Associated Press reporter says pro-Russian forces refused to let a foreign military mission enter Crimea on Saturday.

After the officers had stopped, the armed men fired warning bursts of automatic weapons fire into the air to make other unidentified vehicles halt. No injuries were reported.

The multinational group of military officers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was attempting to enter the embattled peninsula from the north. The armed men told them they had no authorization to enter Crimea.

The OSCE mission will likely return to the Ukrainian city of Kherson where it had spent the night, the AP reporter said.

Russia and Ukraine are locked in a tense standoff over Crimea.

Bloomberg adds:

OSCE tried to enter Crimea for third day, warning shots were fired as it attempted to do so today, Tatyana Baeva, OSCE spokeswoman, said by phone from Vienna.

Nobody injured in incident, OSCE mission is now back in Kherson, southern Ukraine.

OSCE 29 member states that provided people for Crimea mission may meet today or tomorrow in Vienna to discuss further action: Baeva

Then there was this overnight escalation as reported by Ukraine’s TV5 station (of questionably credibility), via Bloomberg:

Pro-Russian armed men today captured building in Simferopol, capital city of Crimea, TV5 private news channel reports, citing Vladislav Selezniov, spokesman for Ukraine’s defense minister in Crimea.

Russian soldiers seized Ukraine’s state border guard division in Shcholkino near Kerch Strait, Ukraine’s border service says in statement on its website

Russian soldiers stormed Shcholkino unit last night, seized weapons storage, beat Ukrainian border guards, took away their mobile phones and forced them and their families to leave

Currently, 11 border guard units are being blocked: Ukraine border service says in separate statement

Ukraine denied entrance to 513 “extremists” from Russia during last 24 hrs, state border guard service says in another separate statement on its website

Remember, all it takes is for one stray bullet to hit a human target, on either side of the conflict, for the market to grasp just how wrong its assessment of de-escalation has been.

Elsewhere, while inspectors were trying to make their way into Ukraine – unsuccessfully – Russia announced it was considering a further freeze of U.S. military inspections under arms control treaties in retaliation to Washington’s decision to halt military cooperation with Russia, news reports said Saturday.

Interfax blasted earlier:

  • UNJUSTIFIED U.S., NATO THREATS SEEN AS UNFRIENDLY GESTURE, ALLOW TO DECLARE FORCE-MAJEURE – RUSSIAN DEFENSE SOURCE
  • RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CONSIDERING SUSPENSION OF RECEIVING INSPECTION GROUPS UNDER START TREATY, VIENNA DOCUMENT 2011 – SOURCE

AP has more:

Russian news agencies carried a statement by an unidentified Defense Ministry official saying that Moscow sees the U.S. move as a reason to suspend U.S. inspections in Russia in line with the 2010 New START treaty on cutting U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and the 2011 Vienna agreement that envisages mutual inspections of Russian and NATO military facilities as part of confidence-building measures.

A Defense Ministry spokesman wouldn’t comment on the reports, which are a usual way in Russia to carry unofficial government signals.

The U.S. and the European Union have introduced sanctions over Russia in response to its move to send troops that have taken control of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

So if the START treaty is suspended how long until its anti-proliferation clauses are scrapped completely once more, and the Cold War arms race returns once again.

Also, \while escalations such as these threaten to transform the new Cold War into a hot one, the clock is ticking, and in favor of Russia, because the longer Ukraine remains without western aid, the quicker its foreign reserves will run out, and the faster the country will become a vassal state of Gazpromia. Add the ticking countdown to the March 16 Crimean referendum, which the west and Ukraine have both declared illegitimate yet have no power to stop, and suddenly one can see how Putin once again outsmarted everything the west had to throw at it. WSJ explains:

Gazprom’s demand raises the prospect that some of the aid Western powers have guaranteed could end up flowing into Moscow’s coffers to pay Ukraine’s gas bill. Virtually all of the country’s natural-gas imports come from Russia. Late last year it was granted a discount that Moscow has threatened to rescind since the fall of Mr. Yanukovych.

“This now becomes an EU/U.S. problem: Who is going to lend Ukraine the money to pay the gas bill? If so, what will be the conditions?” said Jonathan Stern, an analyst at the Oxford Energy Institute.

A spokesman for Gazprom said that the threatened cutoff wouldn’t affect supplies to Europe, which gets about a third of its gas from Russia, much of it via pipelines that run through Ukraine.

 

 

In 2009, after the Russian energy giant switched off the supply to Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities began using the supply transiting their territory that Gazprom said was destined for customers in Europe. Gazprom then cut off the flow altogether, causing shortages and price increases for end customers.

 

“The EU, U.S. and IMF have just about three weeks to resolve this,” Mr. Stern said.

At which point it’s game, set match Putin once more.

Finally, what certainly helped Russia is that, as expected, China took the side of Putin, not of the “free world”, in what is now a very distinct and clear axis of power the New Normal dipolar world.

Russia Threatens Retaliation To Sanctions, Announces Support For Crimean Referendum | Zero Hedge

Russia Threatens Retaliation To Sanctions, Announces Support For Crimean Referendum | Zero Hedge.

It appears Obama’s latest “one hour” conversation with Putin has just made things downshift from bad to worse.

Moments ago Russia accused the European Union of taking an “extremely unconstructive position” by freezing talks on easing visa barriers that complicate travel between Russia and the EU over Ukraine.

Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats” and will retaliate if sanctions are imposed, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement about agreements reached at an emergency EU summit on Thursday.

And assuring that the imminent Crimean referendum due in just over a week will rapidly deteriorate the current detente was overnight news that Russia’s upper house of parliament will support Crimea in its bid to join the Russian Federation, the speaker of the upper house of parliament said Friday. “If the people of Crimea decide to join Russia in the referendum, we, as the upper house, will certainly support this decision,” Valentina Matvienko said at a meeting with Vladimir Konstantinov, his counterpart in the Crimean parliament.

WSJ reports that a delegation from the Crimean peninsula were in Moscow to meet parliamentarians who warmly welcomed the guests and signaled their willingness to support the neighboring region.

Shortly thereafter, the western inspectors learned they are not exactly welcome in the Crimea later on Friday when a group of military and civilian personnel from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will be making another attempt to enter the Crimean peninsula, after being stopped at two border checkpoints the day before, a spokesman for the organization said.

“The group is on their way from Kherson, where they spent the night, and is heading to a checkpoint in the area of a village called Chungar,” Shiv Sharma said, adding that the group of about 40 people is scheduled to arrive around 1330 local time (1130 GMT).

But while the OSCE inspectors will hardly receive a warm welcome anywhere in the pro-Russian parts of the Ukraine, one thing is certain: while for the next week the world is stuck listening to more hollow rhetoric, once the Crimea formally splits from the Ukraine and joins Russia as per the will of the parliament and the people, that’s when things get rough, as that will be the formal expansion of Russia into a region of the Ukraine which everyone in the west has called an unconstitutional process, while Russia itself calls the coup that overthrew Yanukovich just as unconstitutional.

So enjoy the downtime: in mid-March things get hot again. Or, if you live in the Ukraine, quite cold:

  • GAZPROM SAYS TODAY IS DEADLINE FOR NAFTOGAZ TO PAY FOR FEB. GAS
  • NAFTOGAZ OVERDUE PAYMENTS AT $1.89B FOR GAS SUPPLIES

Leverage.

Russia Threatens Retaliation To Sanctions, Announces Support For Crimean Referendum | Zero Hedge

Russia Threatens Retaliation To Sanctions, Announces Support For Crimean Referendum | Zero Hedge.

It appears Obama’s latest “one hour” conversation with Putin has just made things downshift from bad to worse.

Moments ago Russia accused the European Union of taking an “extremely unconstructive position” by freezing talks on easing visa barriers that complicate travel between Russia and the EU over Ukraine.

Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats” and will retaliate if sanctions are imposed, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement about agreements reached at an emergency EU summit on Thursday.

And assuring that the imminent Crimean referendum due in just over a week will rapidly deteriorate the current detente was overnight news that Russia’s upper house of parliament will support Crimea in its bid to join the Russian Federation, the speaker of the upper house of parliament said Friday. “If the people of Crimea decide to join Russia in the referendum, we, as the upper house, will certainly support this decision,” Valentina Matvienko said at a meeting with Vladimir Konstantinov, his counterpart in the Crimean parliament.

WSJ reports that a delegation from the Crimean peninsula were in Moscow to meet parliamentarians who warmly welcomed the guests and signaled their willingness to support the neighboring region.

Shortly thereafter, the western inspectors learned they are not exactly welcome in the Crimea later on Friday when a group of military and civilian personnel from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will be making another attempt to enter the Crimean peninsula, after being stopped at two border checkpoints the day before, a spokesman for the organization said.

“The group is on their way from Kherson, where they spent the night, and is heading to a checkpoint in the area of a village called Chungar,” Shiv Sharma said, adding that the group of about 40 people is scheduled to arrive around 1330 local time (1130 GMT).

But while the OSCE inspectors will hardly receive a warm welcome anywhere in the pro-Russian parts of the Ukraine, one thing is certain: while for the next week the world is stuck listening to more hollow rhetoric, once the Crimea formally splits from the Ukraine and joins Russia as per the will of the parliament and the people, that’s when things get rough, as that will be the formal expansion of Russia into a region of the Ukraine which everyone in the west has called an unconstitutional process, while Russia itself calls the coup that overthrew Yanukovich just as unconstitutional.

So enjoy the downtime: in mid-March things get hot again. Or, if you live in the Ukraine, quite cold:

  • GAZPROM SAYS TODAY IS DEADLINE FOR NAFTOGAZ TO PAY FOR FEB. GAS
  • NAFTOGAZ OVERDUE PAYMENTS AT $1.89B FOR GAS SUPPLIES

Leverage.

Ukraine Won't Pay Russia For Gas, Has Billions In Obligations Due; Europe Promises Aid Money It Doesn't Have | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Won’t Pay Russia For Gas, Has Billions In Obligations Due; Europe Promises Aid Money It Doesn’t Have | Zero Hedge.

About an hour ago, the head of Russia’s top natural gas producer Gazprom said on Wednesday that Ukraine had informed the company it could not pay for February gas deliveries in full, further adding to tensions between Moscow and Kiev. Alexei Miller said Ukraine’s total debt to Gazprom for gas deliveries was nearing $2 billion. “Our Ukrainian colleagues informed us that they would not be able to pay in full for February gas deliveries,” he told Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As reported by Reuters, Miller added that Ukraine managed to redeem only $10 million on Wednesday from a total debt of $1.529 billion. He said that Ukraine’s debt would rise by $440 million on March 7, a deadline for payments. In other words, as of this moment the Ukraine already owes Russia $2 billion, or about double what John Kerry announced to much fanfare, the US would provide the country with in terms of aid. And considering that yesterday Gazprom announed that beginning in April it would end the gas pricing discount to the Ukraine, which lowered the price of gas to $268.5 per 1,000 cubic metres from around $400, this accrual is only set to get bigger with every passing day, and very soon Ukraine may get no Russian gas at all which was and continues to be the biggest leverage Russia has over the country which nuclear power plants provide less than half of its electricity needs.

As a reminder, and as we have pointed out since the start of the Ukraine conflict, Gazprom, which meets 30 percent of Europe’s gas demand, shipped 86 billion cubic meters, or over half of its total exports, to the European Union through Ukraine last year. Gazprom already warned Europe may see “fluctuations” in its gas delivieries from Russia.

A Gazprom spokesman said Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine was flowing normally. For now.

But gas is only the beginning of Ukraine’s problems. As also announced about an hour ago, Ukraine’s acting finance minister Oleksander Shlapak reported that the country needs to repay $10 billion by year end and that the country may ask for a debt restructuring. Naturally, absent outside help, no repayment is possible and the country will certainly default, which means someone has to step up and bail out the Ukraine. The only question is where this aid comes from: EU/IMF or Russia.

And that is the €/$64K question. Which is why also earlier today, the European Commission announced that it will provide Ukraine with 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in financial assistance to Ukraine.  As reported by RIA, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the aid package was designed to enable “a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented government in rebuilding a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine.” The European Commission said in a statement that financial support would be provided over a two-year period from the EU budget and EU-based international financial institutions.

There is only one problem with Europe’s aid:  the money is not only not “there,” it is also conditional on individual countries getting approval from their populations, and most of it would come from the IMF, i.e. funded primarily by US taxpayers. As the WSJ summarized, “The EU said it would make at least $15 billion in grants and loans available for Ukraine in the next couple of years, although much of the money has strings attached and would need approval from member states and other institutions.”

So basically, it comes down to a matter of timing and payment acceleration: if Russia really wants Ukraine to fold, it will make sure the bill is high enough and the gas shut off looming enough that the only source of funds would be Russia itself, not insolvent Europe. The last thing Putin will want is to give Europe the years it needs to figure out how to honor its bailout commitment (ask Greece). Which is why Medvedev has also announced Russia would be able to provide $2-3 billion immediately to Ukraine… to pay for the gas bill. Naturally, with a few strings attached.

Ukraine Won’t Pay Russia For Gas, Has Billions In Obligations Due; Europe Promises Aid Money It Doesn’t Have | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Won’t Pay Russia For Gas, Has Billions In Obligations Due; Europe Promises Aid Money It Doesn’t Have | Zero Hedge.

About an hour ago, the head of Russia’s top natural gas producer Gazprom said on Wednesday that Ukraine had informed the company it could not pay for February gas deliveries in full, further adding to tensions between Moscow and Kiev. Alexei Miller said Ukraine’s total debt to Gazprom for gas deliveries was nearing $2 billion. “Our Ukrainian colleagues informed us that they would not be able to pay in full for February gas deliveries,” he told Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As reported by Reuters, Miller added that Ukraine managed to redeem only $10 million on Wednesday from a total debt of $1.529 billion. He said that Ukraine’s debt would rise by $440 million on March 7, a deadline for payments. In other words, as of this moment the Ukraine already owes Russia $2 billion, or about double what John Kerry announced to much fanfare, the US would provide the country with in terms of aid. And considering that yesterday Gazprom announed that beginning in April it would end the gas pricing discount to the Ukraine, which lowered the price of gas to $268.5 per 1,000 cubic metres from around $400, this accrual is only set to get bigger with every passing day, and very soon Ukraine may get no Russian gas at all which was and continues to be the biggest leverage Russia has over the country which nuclear power plants provide less than half of its electricity needs.

As a reminder, and as we have pointed out since the start of the Ukraine conflict, Gazprom, which meets 30 percent of Europe’s gas demand, shipped 86 billion cubic meters, or over half of its total exports, to the European Union through Ukraine last year. Gazprom already warned Europe may see “fluctuations” in its gas delivieries from Russia.

A Gazprom spokesman said Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine was flowing normally. For now.

But gas is only the beginning of Ukraine’s problems. As also announced about an hour ago, Ukraine’s acting finance minister Oleksander Shlapak reported that the country needs to repay $10 billion by year end and that the country may ask for a debt restructuring. Naturally, absent outside help, no repayment is possible and the country will certainly default, which means someone has to step up and bail out the Ukraine. The only question is where this aid comes from: EU/IMF or Russia.

And that is the €/$64K question. Which is why also earlier today, the European Commission announced that it will provide Ukraine with 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in financial assistance to Ukraine.  As reported by RIA, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the aid package was designed to enable “a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented government in rebuilding a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine.” The European Commission said in a statement that financial support would be provided over a two-year period from the EU budget and EU-based international financial institutions.

There is only one problem with Europe’s aid:  the money is not only not “there,” it is also conditional on individual countries getting approval from their populations, and most of it would come from the IMF, i.e. funded primarily by US taxpayers. As the WSJ summarized, “The EU said it would make at least $15 billion in grants and loans available for Ukraine in the next couple of years, although much of the money has strings attached and would need approval from member states and other institutions.”

So basically, it comes down to a matter of timing and payment acceleration: if Russia really wants Ukraine to fold, it will make sure the bill is high enough and the gas shut off looming enough that the only source of funds would be Russia itself, not insolvent Europe. The last thing Putin will want is to give Europe the years it needs to figure out how to honor its bailout commitment (ask Greece). Which is why Medvedev has also announced Russia would be able to provide $2-3 billion immediately to Ukraine… to pay for the gas bill. Naturally, with a few strings attached.

It Begins: Gazprom Warns European Gas "Supply Disruptions" Possible | Zero Hedge

It Begins: Gazprom Warns European Gas “Supply Disruptions” Possible | Zero Hedge.

We had previously warned that Putin’s “trump card” had yet to be played and with Obama (and a quickly dropping list of allies) preparing economic sanctions (given their limited escalation options otherwise), it was only a matter of time before the pressure was once again applied from the Russian side. As ITAR-TASS reports, Russia’s Gazprom warned that not only could it cancel its “supply discount” as Ukraine’s overdue payments reached $1.5 billion but that “simmering political tensions in Ukraine, that are aggravated by inadequate economic conditions, may cause disruptions of gas supplies to Europe.” And with that one sentence, Europe will awaken to grave concerns over Russia’s next steps should sanctions be applied.

 

It would appear this is the most important map in Europe once again…

 

 

Some recent history…

In late January, Ukraine asked Russia for deferral of payments for gas supplied in 2013 and in early 2014. President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine’s debt totalled $2.7 billion then.

and then…

On March 1, Gazprom’s spokesperson Sergai Kupriyanov said the gas holding could cancel its gas supply discount for Ukraine as its overdue debt for gas reached $1.5 billion. This figure includes debts not only for last year’s supplies, but also for the current deliveries.

 

The situation with payments is worrying,” said Andrei Kruglov, Gazprom’s chief financial officer.

Ukraine is paying but not as well as we would like it to. We are still thinking about whether to extend the pricing contract into the next quarter based on current prices.”

And now today…

Russia’s gas giant Gazprom said on Monday it did not rule out possible disruptions of gas supplies to Europe over Ukraine’s political situation.

 

Simmering political tensions in Ukraine, that are aggravated by inadequate economic conditions, may cause disruptions of gas supplies to Europe,” the monopoly said in its materials, adding that it would do its utmost to reduce export risks.

 

“We will further invest into other export-oriented projects such as South Stream and will enhance our LNG (liquefied natural gas) production and export capacity. We also increase our access to underground gas storage facilities in Europe.”

 

Andrei Kruglov, Gazprom’s chief financial officer, said at the moment Russia had been supplying gas to Ukraine according to schedule, although the latter failed to fulfil its debt obligations.

With that last sentence providing exactly the ‘real world’ cover Gazprom needs to cut its supplies “through” Ukraine and thus to Europe…

And, as The Guardian notes, this would…

not the first time Russia has used gas exports to put pressure on its neighbour – and “gas wars” between the two countries tend to be felt far beyond their borders. Russia, after all, still supplies around 30% of Europe’s gas.

 

In late 2005, Gazprom said it planned to hike the price it charged Ukraine for natural gas from $50 per 1,000 cubic metres, to $230. The company, so important to Russia that it used to be a ministry and was once headed by the former president (and current prime minister) Dmitry Medvedev, said it simply wanted a fair market price; the move had nothing to do with Ukraine’s increasingly strong ties with the European Union and Nato. Kiev, unsurprisingly, said it would not pay, and on 1 January 2006 – the two countries having spectacularly failed to reach an agreement – Gazprom turned off the taps.

 

The impact was immediate – and not just in Ukraine. The country is crossed by a network of Soviet-era pipelines that carry Russian natural gas to many European Union member states and beyond; more than a quarter of the EU’s total gas needs were met by Russian gas, and some 80% of it came via Ukrainian pipelines. Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Poland soon reported gas pressure in their own pipelines was down by as much as 30%.

Short of an actual war, the consensus appeared to be, Europe’s gas supplies are unlikely to be seriously threatened (since Putin relies on those revenues)… that is clearly about to change with Gazprom’s comments.

As the following image from Agence France Presse (created at the end of last year) indicates, things are about to get a lot more problemati for Germany, France, and Italy…

It Begins: Gazprom Warns European Gas “Supply Disruptions” Possible | Zero Hedge

It Begins: Gazprom Warns European Gas “Supply Disruptions” Possible | Zero Hedge.

We had previously warned that Putin’s “trump card” had yet to be played and with Obama (and a quickly dropping list of allies) preparing economic sanctions (given their limited escalation options otherwise), it was only a matter of time before the pressure was once again applied from the Russian side. As ITAR-TASS reports, Russia’s Gazprom warned that not only could it cancel its “supply discount” as Ukraine’s overdue payments reached $1.5 billion but that “simmering political tensions in Ukraine, that are aggravated by inadequate economic conditions, may cause disruptions of gas supplies to Europe.” And with that one sentence, Europe will awaken to grave concerns over Russia’s next steps should sanctions be applied.

 

It would appear this is the most important map in Europe once again…

 

 

Some recent history…

In late January, Ukraine asked Russia for deferral of payments for gas supplied in 2013 and in early 2014. President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine’s debt totalled $2.7 billion then.

and then…

On March 1, Gazprom’s spokesperson Sergai Kupriyanov said the gas holding could cancel its gas supply discount for Ukraine as its overdue debt for gas reached $1.5 billion. This figure includes debts not only for last year’s supplies, but also for the current deliveries.

 

The situation with payments is worrying,” said Andrei Kruglov, Gazprom’s chief financial officer.

Ukraine is paying but not as well as we would like it to. We are still thinking about whether to extend the pricing contract into the next quarter based on current prices.”

And now today…

Russia’s gas giant Gazprom said on Monday it did not rule out possible disruptions of gas supplies to Europe over Ukraine’s political situation.

 

Simmering political tensions in Ukraine, that are aggravated by inadequate economic conditions, may cause disruptions of gas supplies to Europe,” the monopoly said in its materials, adding that it would do its utmost to reduce export risks.

 

“We will further invest into other export-oriented projects such as South Stream and will enhance our LNG (liquefied natural gas) production and export capacity. We also increase our access to underground gas storage facilities in Europe.”

 

Andrei Kruglov, Gazprom’s chief financial officer, said at the moment Russia had been supplying gas to Ukraine according to schedule, although the latter failed to fulfil its debt obligations.

With that last sentence providing exactly the ‘real world’ cover Gazprom needs to cut its supplies “through” Ukraine and thus to Europe…

And, as The Guardian notes, this would…

not the first time Russia has used gas exports to put pressure on its neighbour – and “gas wars” between the two countries tend to be felt far beyond their borders. Russia, after all, still supplies around 30% of Europe’s gas.

 

In late 2005, Gazprom said it planned to hike the price it charged Ukraine for natural gas from $50 per 1,000 cubic metres, to $230. The company, so important to Russia that it used to be a ministry and was once headed by the former president (and current prime minister) Dmitry Medvedev, said it simply wanted a fair market price; the move had nothing to do with Ukraine’s increasingly strong ties with the European Union and Nato. Kiev, unsurprisingly, said it would not pay, and on 1 January 2006 – the two countries having spectacularly failed to reach an agreement – Gazprom turned off the taps.

 

The impact was immediate – and not just in Ukraine. The country is crossed by a network of Soviet-era pipelines that carry Russian natural gas to many European Union member states and beyond; more than a quarter of the EU’s total gas needs were met by Russian gas, and some 80% of it came via Ukrainian pipelines. Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Poland soon reported gas pressure in their own pipelines was down by as much as 30%.

Short of an actual war, the consensus appeared to be, Europe’s gas supplies are unlikely to be seriously threatened (since Putin relies on those revenues)… that is clearly about to change with Gazprom’s comments.

As the following image from Agence France Presse (created at the end of last year) indicates, things are about to get a lot more problemati for Germany, France, and Italy…

Ukraine Calls Russia’s Bluff, Slashes Nat Gas Imports By 80% | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Calls Russia’s Bluff, Slashes Nat Gas Imports By 80% | Zero Hedge.

Twice in recent years, Russia has suspended gas supplies, or notably raised prices, as the somewhat well-known “trump card” of Russia’s oil and gas supply to Ukraine (and Europe for that matter) remains Putin’s easiest option for clenching his iron-first against the divided nation. Following a pre-emptive move in November by Ukraine to diversify its energy supply,  Russia had reduced the price of gas for the highly indebted Ukraine in December (to entice Ukraine under Russia’s wing); but, after recent events, Dmitry Medvedev signaled on Monday that the price could be raised again. However, today we find that Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia’s Gazprom by  stunning 80% in February as Ukraine tries to show Russia it can’t be pushed around… of course, with limited (and more expensive) alternative supplies, we fear this could well shoot them in the foot.

This action is similar to that taken in November (before the EU accession discussion)…

 Russia and Ukraine waged two gas wars over prices in the winters of 2006 and 2009 (which lasted 3 weeks) over a claim Ukraine was late in paying.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that if Gazprom refuses to revise its contract, Ukraine would stop importing gas from RussiaIn a step away from energy dependence on Russia, last week Ukraine signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with Chevron.

Ukraine is speeding up its effort to diversify its supply, and has looked at different exporters, fracking, new offshore projects in the Black Sea, as well as new LNG terminals and pipelines to diversify supply. Ukraine imports more than half of its gas from Russia, but under Viktor Yanukovich’s leadership, has intentionally scaled down Gazprom imports 40 percent over ‘unfair prices’.

And now today,

Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia’s Gazprom to 28 million cubic meters per day as of February 24 from 147 million, two Russian industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

They said Naftogaz had gradually reduced its imports from 147 million cubic meters as of February 1, but did not offer a reason for the cuts.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hinted on Monday that gas prices, reduced as part of a Russian bailout in December, may revert to higher levels.

Ukraine consumes about 55 billion cubic meters of gas each year, and more than half is imported from Russia. Gazprom exported 161.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe last year.

Gazprom official declined to comment on Naftogaz import volumes but said Russian gas transit to Europe was unaffected.

So simply put, they want to show Russia they can’t be pushed around… the trouble is, of course, that with alternative supply routes in short-supply (and only more expensive alternatives available)…

…they may well be shooting themselves in the foot. That and the whole being out of money thing too won’t help.  Finally, as everyone knows by now, Russia does have the “trump card” no matter how hard to get the Ukraine plays:

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