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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 13:33 GMT
Arctic Russia prompts power worry
Russians walk through snow in Red Square
Energy demands have surged in Russia because of the cold snap
Russia's freezing weather has raised concerns about Europe's energy supply.

Finland has warned of power shortages after Russia said it would cut electricity exports to help domestic users fend off the Arctic cold.

The move by Russian power giant UES follows state-owned Gazprom's decision to limit gas exports, although it has pledged to meet supply commitments.

Energy is a hot topic after Russia temporarily cut Ukraine's gas, hitting Europe as well.

Outages

Fingrid, the operator of Finland's national grid, issued its "mildest" warning regarding power shortages but said that there was a chance of problems between 0830 and 2100 local time.

"Electricity generation capacity in Finland will potentially be insufficient," Fingrid said in a statement.

The concern over electricity in Finland comes amid continuing fears in other European nations over shortfalls in gas supplies from Russia.

Earlier in the week, the EU said that gas supplies to Italy dropped by 5%, while Austria, Hungary, Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic saw a 20% decline.

The boss of Italian oil and gas firm Eni, Paolo Scaroni, said on Thursday that Italy might have power problems in February and March if the cold weather continued and Russia did not provide enough gas.

Gas pipe valve
The worry for many in Europe is that the gas taps may get turned

His comments came after Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel called on the EU to reduce its dependence on Russian gas supplies.

The European Union imports about 40% of the gas it uses, and about half of that comes from Russia.

Changing times

Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom is in the process of renegotiating many of its contracts with former Soviet Union nations.

It had previously given preferential terms, but now with gas prices surging on the back of higher crude costs it wants to bring levels closer to those of the world market.

Gazprom's head, Alexei Miller, was expected in Tashkent on Friday to meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss gas pricing, transit, and the role of the company in helping develop the nation's gas fields.

There are few signs that the cold snap in Russia is about to end.

Temperatures on Thursday were down to about minus 30C, with officials saying that the they were the lowest recorded on the date of 19 January since 1927.

Schools and businesses have had to shut, while cars and public transport also were affected.

According to press reports, cash machines have frozen, shops and vending kiosks have closed, and monkeys at one zoo are being given wine three times a day to keep warm.


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