Something of a switcheroo just happened in Ukraine. Citing infrastructure damage caused by months of fighting, the country’s state-owned gas company Naftogaz announced a cessation of supplies to the east, while Russia’s Gazprom countered with its own announcement that it would step in to supply the region with the gas it needs. Reuters reports:
Naftogaz said it had suspended supplies on Feb. 18 “due to the extensive damage of the gas transport networks”. “The resumption of gas supplies is not yet possible because of the ongoing hostilities in the region,” it said in a statement. […]Responding to an order from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to supply gas to east Ukraine as humanitarian aid, gas company Gazprom said it had started supplies via the Prokhorovka and Platovo pumping stations on the border with east Ukraine.
Gas supplies have figured strongly in the power dynamics of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, and it’s difficult to assess what’s really behind this latest change. On the one hand, it’s certainly not unthinkable that Ukraine’s already weak energy infrastructure would not be holding up well in the midst of protracted artillery battles. On the other, from Kiev’s point of view, sending flows of an energy resource that’s already in short supply to a part of Ukraine being ravaged by separatists wouldn’t be a top priority.Whatever the impetus for this switch, Moscow may come out looking like something of a savior to eastern Ukrainians trying to heat their homes this winter.