By ELENA BECATOROS and JON GAMBRELL
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine shut down a pipeline Wednesday that carries Russian natural gas to homes and industries in Western Europe, while a Kremlin-installed official in a southern region seized by Russian troops said the area will ask Moscow to annex it.
The immediate effect of the energy cutoff is likely to be limited, in part because Russia can divert the gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers. But it marked the first time since the start of the war that Ukraine disrupted the flow westward of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports.
Meanwhile, the talk of annexation in Kherson — and Russia’s apparent willingness to consider such a request — raised the possibility that the Kremlin will seek to break off another piece of Ukraine as it tries to salvage an invasion gone awry. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
“The city of Kherson is Russia,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kherson regional administration installed by Moscow, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency. He said regional officials want Russian President Vladimir Putin to make Kherson a “proper region” of Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it would be “up to the residents of the Kherson region” to make such a request, and that any move to annex territory would would have to be closely evaluated by experts to make sure its legal basis is “absolutely clear.”
Russia has repeatedly used annexation or recognition of breakaway republics as tactics in recent years to gain pieces of fellow former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after holding a referendum on the peninsula over whether it wanted to become part of Russia.
Kherson, a Black Sea port of roughly 300,000, provides access to fresh water for neighboring Crimea and is seen a gateway to wider Russian control over southern Ukraine. It was captured early in the war, becoming Ukraine’s first major city to fall.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak mocked the notion of its annexation, tweeting: “The invaders may ask to join even Mars or Jupiter. The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson, no matter what games with words they play.”
On the energy front, Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it moved to stop the flow of Russian gas through a compressor station in part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists because enemy forces were interfering with the station’s operation and siphoning off gas.
The hub handles about one-third of Russian gas passing through Ukraine to Western Europe. But analysts said much of the gas can be redirected through another pipeline from Russia that crosses Ukraine, and preliminary data suggested that was already happening.
In any case, Europe also gets natural gas from other pipelines and other countries.
“We’re losing a few percent in overall European gas supply, when you consider imports and domestic production as well,” said Tom Marzec-Manser, head of gas analytics at ICIS market intelligence firm. “So this is not a huge cutoff to gas supplies” for Europe.
Still, European gas …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News
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