Russia Cuts Off Coal Deliveries To Ukraine, Could Lead To Dangerous Power Cuts During Winter

Russia has suspended deliveries of goal to Ukraine, forcing officials in Kiev to declare a state of emergency as its people face the prospect of a long and difficult winter.

The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Moscow rebels has strained coal production in Ukraine, and led to rail lines being shut down. More than half of all the nation's coal mines will be closed.

With the supply of coal dropped dramatically, Ukraine had been relying on Russia to supply enough coal to fuel power plants, but last week, the country's largest energy company, DTEK, said that Moscow suspended imports of coal. The suspension came without warning, DTEK said in a statement.

"We hope the situation will be clarified soon and supplies will be resumed in regular regime," the statement added.

As noted, the suspended coal delivery comes at the worst possible time for Ukraine.

"The situation is ironic because Ukraine has been one of Europe's leading coal producers. In 2013 it produced 60 million metric tons of coal, but the fighting, which Western leaders say is fomented by the Russian government, has shut down 66 coal mines in eastern Ukraine, leaving only 60 more still in service. Until the fighting broke out, Ukraine used coal to generate about 40 percent of its electricity.

"In an interview with the television channel 112 Ukraine, Dmitry Marunich, a co-chairman of the Ukrainian Energy Strategies Fund, said Russia's suspension of coal deliveries comes at the worst possible time because Kiev has 'little chance to find other sources to substitute for it.'"

Ukrainian officials say they are now desperately trying to find a way to replace the coal lost when Russia ended shipments.

"We have no energy reserves now, everything works on maximum and every technical problem can lead to sharp power cuts," said Andrey Favorov, managing director of energy investment company Energy Resources of Ukraine. "The only way to avoid freezing this winter is to negotiate, to pull out politics: we need to look at buying coal from reliable traders, import coal from South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, other countries."

While Russia's suspension of coal imports is hurting Ukraine, NATO officials have also accused Russia of fueling the conflict there. After sending troops into eastern Ukraine this summer to support pro-Moscow rebels, Russia reportedly sent a new round of troops and heavy weapons into Ukraine.

[Image via Mother Jones]