Science, Tech & Environment

Europe's natural gas crisis

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Countries affected by the gas crisis (Image: TheWorld.org)

Many Europeans woke up to quite a chill today -- a cold front has pulled temperatures well below freezing across much of the continent. But that's not the only problem. Russia supplies about a quarter of the natural gas used in Europe and most of that gas flows through pipelines in Ukraine.

The flow of Russian natural gas through Ukraine was completely shut off today. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of interrupting supplies. Meanwhile, gas for heating is in short supply in many European countries, especially in the east. "The World's" Gerry Hadden reports on the latest developments.

Officials in Bulgaria said they will most likely have to close schools in the coming days to save on gas consumption. Many businesses are already shut.

At least ten other European countries that import Russian gas through Ukraine have said their gas supplies have been completely cut. Most of those countries are close to Ukraine, but Germany and Italy have seen dramatic drops in Russian gas imports since this morning.

The chairman of Russia's state-run gas company says the only reason Russian gas isn't reaching Europe is because Ukraine has shut down the transit pipes in order to keep the gas for themselves.

Ukraine officials deny that, and the European Union remains skeptical about Russian claims.

Europe hopes it can break the Russia-Ukraine deadlock with talks tomorrow in Moscow. Russia they say, risks loosing clients in the long-run by interrupting energy supplies. But Russia doesn't have much maneuvering room -- its fuel exports account for more than half of its GDP. As gas and oil prices have plummeted, Russia itself is feeling the pinch.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.