Europe plunged into energy crisis as Russia cuts off gas supply via Ukraine

  • Gas prices rise in London
  • Bulgaria reaches ‘crisis’ point

Russia cut gas exports to Europe by 60 per cent today, plunging the continent into an energy crisis ‘within hours’ as a dispute with Ukraine escalated.
This morning, gas companies in Ukraine said that Russia had completely cut off their supply.

Six countries reported a complete shut-off of Russian gas shipped via Ukraine today, in a sharp escalation of a struggle over energy that threatens Europe as winter sets in.

Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia and Turkey all reported a halt in gas shipments from Russia through Ukraine.

Croatia said it was temporarily reducing supplies to industrial customers while Bulgaria said it had enough gas for only ‘for a few days’ and was in a ‘crisis situation’.

putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller during a meeting yesterday

The European Union in Brussels called the sudden cut-off to some of its member countries ‘completely unacceptable’.

The EU demanded the two sides reopen talks as the row immediately sparked fears of gas supply shortages and rising energy prices in the UK.

The UK is suffering one of its coldest nights this century with temperatures plunging to as low as -10C.

Though Britain is one of Gazprom’s largest importers – relying on the company for some 16 per cent of consumption in 2007, according to The Times, the gas is supplied through a complicated swap scheme that means supplies themselves may not be affected.

Prices, on the other hand, rose during trading in London today.

dmitry medvedev and vladimir putin

Dmitry Medvedev and  Vladimir Putin on the slopes last week. Putin ordered Gazprom to cut supplies to and through Ukraine by around three-fifths

The dispute, coupled with Israel’s military operation in Gaza, also pushed oil up to a three-week high of $49.91 in New York yesterday.

Russia, whose main export is oil, stands to benefit from a recovery in prices.

‘Without prior warning and in clear contradiction with the reassurances given by the highest Russian and Ukrainian authorities to the European Union, gas supplies to some EU member states have been substantially cut,’ the EU said in a statement.

‘The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission demand that gas supplies be restored immediately to the EU and that the two parties resume negotiations at once with a view to a definitive settlement of their bilateral commercial dispute,’ the presidency and the Commission said in a joint statement.

They added that the EU would ‘intensify the dialogue with both parties so that they can reach an agreement swiftly’.

Overnight the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the state energy giant Gazprom to cut supplies to and through Ukraine by around three-fifths amid accusations its neighbour has been siphoning off and stealing Russian gas.

Ukraine says the Russian move has been prompted by payment and price disputes, a row between the two that has become almost annual.

The effects of the dispute on the rest of Europe however is stark, said Ukraine’s main gas supplier.

Around 80 per cent of the gas European Union countries receive from Russia comes through Ukraine.

While Germany and France are much more exposed, it is reckoned in some estimates that 15 per cent of Britain’s supplies come from Russia through pipelines into the UK’s east coast.

‘They [the Russians] have reduced deliveries to 92million cubic metres per 24 hours compared to the promised 221million cubic metres without explanation,’ said Valentin Zemlyansky of the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz.

‘We do not understand how we will deliver gas to Europe. This means that in a few hours problems with supplies to Europe will begin.’

Wholesale gas prices have already risen on the back of the rallying price of oil, up 50 per cent in the last fortnight to more than $48 a barrel on the back of Middle East tension over Israeli incursions into Palestinian-held Gaza.

The dispute stokes fears Britain is overreliant on imported gas. North Sea stocks are dwindling, though initiatives are in place to build the Langeled pipeline from Norway, improve underground long-term storage facilities and receive liquefied natural gas by ship from Africa and Asia.

Eastern and central European countries are already reporting supply problems, including the Czech Republic which has the current presidency of the EU. The EU as a whole depends on Russia for 25 per cent of its gas supplies.

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Russia Just Pulled Itself Out Of The Petrodollar

Ukraine Ceasefire Takes Hold, but an Expanding NATO on Russia’s Borders Raises Threat of Nuclear War

Democracy Now!

9/5/14

[partial transcript]

… STEPHEN COHEN: One latest development is related to what Juan just said about New York kids. There are about a million refugees from eastern Ukraine, most of them having fled to Russia, a lot of kids. Traditionally in Ukraine and Russia, the first day of school is September 1. There are about 50,000 to 70,000 kids who needed to have started school. The Russians have made every effort to get them in school, but there are a lot of little Ukrainian kids who won’t be going to school this September yet, because they’re living in refugee camps. And that’s the story, of course.

This is a horrific, tragic, completely unnecessary war in eastern Ukraine. In my own judgment, we have contributed mightily to this tragedy. I would say that historians one day will look back and say that America has blood on its hands. Three thousand people have died, most of them civilians who couldn’t move quickly. That’s women with small children, older women. A million refugees. Talk of a ceasefire that might go into place today, which would be wonderful, because nobody else should die for absolutely no reason.

But what’s driving the new developments, and partially the NATO meeting in Wales, but this stunning development, that Juan mentioned, reported in The New York Review of Books, though a handful of us in this country have been trying to get it into the media for nearly two weeks, is that it appeared that the Ukrainian army would conquer eastern Ukraine. But what they were doing is sitting outside the cities, bombarding these cities with aircraft, rockets, heavy artillery. That’s what caused the 3,000 deaths and the refugees. They’ve seriously damaged the entire infrastructure, industrial infrastructure, of Ukraine, which is in these eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, the so-called Donbas region.

It turned out, though, that the Ukrainian army didn’t want to enter these cities, where the rebels were embedded, ensconced. It’s their homes; these fighters are mainly from these cities. And while this killing was going on, the rebels were regrouping. Now, there’s an argument: How much help did they get from Russia? Some people are saying Russia invaded. Others say, no, Russia just gave them some technical and organizational support. But whatever happened in the last 10 days, there’s been one of the most remarkable military turnarounds we’ve witnessed in many years, and the Ukrainian army is not only being defeated, but it’s on the run. It’s fleeing. It wants no more of this. It’s leaving its heavy equipment behind. It’s really in full-scale retreat, except in one place, the city Juan mentioned, Mariupol, where there’s a fight going on as we talk now. The rebels have the city encircled. Whether that fighting will stop if the ceasefire is announced in the next couple hours, we don’t know. It’s a very important city. But everything has now changed. If there’s negotiation, the government of Ukraine, Poroshenko, the president, our President Obama and NATO thought that when negotiations began, the West would dictate the terms to Putin because they won the war in Ukraine. Now it’s the reverse…

AMY GOODMAN: The possibility of Ukraine in NATO and what that means and what—

STEPHEN COHEN: Nuclear war.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

STEPHEN COHEN: Next question. I mean, it’s clear. It’s clear. First of all, by NATO’s own rules, Ukraine cannot join NATO, a country that does not control its own territory. In this case, Kiev controls less and less by the day. It’s lost Crimea. It’s losing the Donbas—I just described why—to the war. A country that does not control its own territory cannot join Ukraine [sic]. Those are the rules.

AMY GOODMAN: Cannot join—

STEPHEN COHEN: I mean, NATO. Secondly, you have to meet certain economic, political and military criteria to join NATO. Ukraine meets none of them. Thirdly, and most importantly, Ukraine is linked to Russia not only in terms of being Russia’s essential security zone, but it’s linked conjugally, so to speak, intermarriage. There are millions, if not tens of millions, of Russian and Ukrainians married together. Put it in NATO, and you’re going to put a barricade through millions of families. Russia will react militarily.

In fact, Russia is already reacting militarily, because look what they’re doing in Wales today. They’re going to create a so-called rapid deployment force of 4,000 fighters. What is 4,000 fighters? Fifteen thousand or less rebels in Ukraine are crushing a 50,000-member Ukrainian army. Four thousand against a million-man Russian army, it’s nonsense. The real reason for creating the so-called rapid deployment force is they say it needs infrastructure. And the infrastructure—that is, in plain language is military bases—need to be on Russia’s borders. And they’ve said where they’re going to put them: in the Baltic republic, Poland and Romania.

Now, why is this important? Because NATO has expanded for 20 years, but it’s been primarily a political expansion, bringing these countries of eastern Europe into our sphere of political influence; now it’s becoming a military expansion. So, within a short period of time, we will have a new—well, we have a new Cold War, but here’s the difference. The last Cold War, the military confrontation was in Berlin, far from Russia. Now it will be, if they go ahead with this NATO decision, right plunk on Russia’s borders. Russia will then leave the historic nuclear agreement that Reagan and Gorbachev signed in 1987 to abolish short-range nuclear missiles. It was the first time nuclear—a category of nuclear weapons had ever been abolished. Where are, by the way, the nuclear abolitionists today? Where is the grassroots movement, you know, FREEZE, SANE? Where have these people gone to? Because we’re looking at a new nuclear arms race. Russia moves these intermediate missiles now to protect its own borders, as the West comes toward Russia. And the tripwire for using these weapons is enormous.

One other thing. Russia has about, I think, 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes called battlefield nuclear weapons. You use these for short distances. They can be fired; you don’t need an airplane or a missile to fly them. They can be fired from artillery. But they’re nuclear. They’re radioactive. They’ve never been used. Russia has about 10,000. We have about 500. Russia’s military doctrine clearly says that if Russia is threatened by overwhelming conventional forces, we will use tactical nuclear weapons. So when Obama boasts, as he has on two occasions, that our conventional weapons are vastly superior to Russia, he’s feeding into this argument by the Russian hawks that we have to get our tactical nuclear weapons ready.

Stephen Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. He’s also the author of a number of books on Russia and the Soviet Union. His latest piece in The Nation is headlined “Patriotic Heresy vs. the New Cold War: Neo-McCarthyites Have Stifled Democratic Debate on Russia and Ukraine.”

Russian Hackers Have Your Password. Now What?

By Katherine Albrecht & Liz McIntyre

www.ehow.com/ehow-tech/

hacker

Russian hackers have figured out how to suck up over a billion user names and passwords from users across the globe.

With the dizzying number of accounts involved, we’re assuming our own information is floating somewhere in the Motherland, and unless we all wise up, it’s just a matter of time before the “CyberVor” culprits upgrade to Sevruga caviar at our expense.

Just to be on the safe side, you should probably make that assumption, too.

Don’t panic, though. It’s not time to say “до свида́ния” to the Internet just yet. Here’s what happened in plain English — and how you can protect yourself.

It’s all about bots

Based on early reports, this may have been the biggest user name and password heist in history. Amazingly, it was deployed on the backs of everyday Web users. The hackers cleverly infected victims’ computers with a virus to turn them into zombie robots (a.k.a. “bots”) to do their bidding. Then they combined a huge number of these computers into a “botnet.”

botnet 620 wide

A botnet is an army of infected devices that can perform jobs for its hacker masters, like sending spam, spreading viruses and spying. In this case, the virus hitched a ride on people’s Web browsers, where it quietly scanned for vulnerabilities on every website visited. When a hackable target was found, the virus reported back to the hackers, who would later siphon data from the websites’ underlying databases.

The resulting jackpots included account information, full names, addresses, usernames, passwords, purchase history — in short, everything the website knew about its customers.
These cyber thugs may have already compromised over 400,000 websites, and security analysts suspect the attacks are ongoing.

Freeze hackers out of your accounts

man in ice 350Have you unwittingly become a hacker patsy? Millions of people have and don’t even know it. We owe it to each other to clean up our acts when it comes to viruses. Here’s how to avoid helping the bad guys:

Watch out for rogue links. Use your cursor to hover over links before clicking them—even those from friends who could unknowingly be delivering you malicious messages. Hovering will reveal where the link goes, usually by displaying it in the lower left-hand corner of your screen. If the link and the hover don’t match, beware. (That Amazon.com link that really goes to www.ra7n.ru/Qpdv, is probably not Amazon.)

Be careful what you download. Questionable software often comes with hidden viruses, especially pirated software and music. Resist that tempting freebie — it could be bot bait.

Practice safe surfing. As you do in real life, stay away from sleazy or dangerous looking sites, and use a proxy when in doubt. Private search engine StartPage.com offers a free proxy with every search result — just click where it says “view by Ixquick proxy.” Watch Katherine’s  short video about the proxy.

Get a good antivirus program. Run it regularly and update it fanatically. Use firewalls to help screen out infected emails and shield you from the effects of rogue links.

username and passwordKeep your computer programs up to date. Are you running a three-year-old version of IE? Viruses prey on security weaknesses. Download and install patches from your software providers regularly.

If you were among those whose data was siphoned — and we should all assume we were — it’s time for the usual security drill. Change your passwords, making them strong and unique for every account. Computer guru Kim Komando has some great tips.

And don’t forget to check your financial accounts for any unusual activity. Don’t just look for big purchases, since identity thieves will often ring up “micro charges” that range from a few cents to a few dollars to test the waters before bagging a big payoff. For more tips on how to minimize the impact of identity theft, check out these helpful tips from the Federal Trade Commission.

Unfortunately, there’s little chance these hackers will be caught and sent to Siberia. Even if they are, a whole new crop of cyberthieves will spring up somewhere else to take their place. If you use these tips, though, the next time a botnet hack is announced, you’ll at least know you weren’t part of the problem.

Til next time,

Katherine & Liz

Join the privacy revolution by switching to StartPage.com the private search engine, and using StartMail.com, both projects Katherine has helped develop. You can catch Katherine on radio daily at www.kmashow.com. And please read our book, Spychips, to learn more about privacy-invading technology and how to defeat it.

Photo credits: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images, PhotoEuphoria/BigStock.com, Tawng/BigStock.com