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Ukraine moves to protect Europe natural gas pipelines amid Russia crisis

Ukraine's law enforcement forces took full control of the country'snatural gas pipelines that carry most of Russian gas to markets in Europe, theInterior Ministry said Sunday.

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Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk ordered the protective measures a dayafter Russian soldiers sought to take control over a gas pumping station at aregional pipeline on the border between Ukraine's Kherson region and thebreakaway region of Crimea.

The move also comes amid calls by the Ukrainian right-wing group topunish Russia for its invasion of Crimea by cutting off its gas suppliescrossing the Ukrainian territory.

"On the orders of Prime Minister Yatseniuk the National Guard and thesecurity service have taken special protection and full control of gastransmission and gas distribution system in Ukraine," the interior ministrysaid in a statement posted on its Website. "The decision was taken to ensurethe safety and smooth running of the country's most important infrastructurefacilities."

Ukraine ships more than a half of Russian Europe-bound gas supplies.

The development comes as Ukraine created a 20,000-strong National Guardforce amid increasing tensions with Russia over its seizure of Crimea,Ukraine's autonomous region, earlier this month.

Crimeans, under supervision of Russian troops, on Sunday votedoverwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia, pro-Russian authoritiesin Crimea said after the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Ukraine denounced the referendum as a sham.

Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector, a Ukrainian paramilitarygroup, issued a statement on Sunday threatening in response to destroy theUkrainian oil and gas pipelines used by Russia to send its resources toEurope.

"If Russian soldiers' boots trample our land, we will do everything tomake the occupier pay dearly for it," Yarosh said. "We know that Russia ismaking money by supplying oil and gas to the West through our pipelines. So wewill destroy the pipeline, depriving the enemy of this source of revenue."

Ukraine transported 86.1 billion cu m of Russian gas to Europe in 2013,including to the EU and Moldova, up 3.2% from the 84.2 Bcm shipped in 2012,according to the energy and coal industry ministry.

--Alexander Bor, newsdesk@platts.com

--Edited by Maurice Geller, maurice.geller@platts.com

Similar stories appear in European Gas Daily See more information at http://www.platts.com/Products/europeangasdaily