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EU must stick with Ukraine despite economic pain -European Commission

·2-min read
Illustration shows natural gas pipeline in front of word EU and Russia flag colours

By Noah Browning

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Europe must keep up its support for Ukraine even as faltering Russian gas supplies raise recession fears, a senior EU official said, adding that a shift towards using coal to fill an energy gap would be temporary and not derail climate goals.

The European Union and other developed economies have widened sanctions on Russia to include its oil and coal but have held off on banning gas imports, which account for 40% of the bloc's needs.

However, gas prices have hit record highs as a slowdown in flows from Russia in recent days has deepened worries over supply in the coming peak-demand winter months.

"Our solidarity toward Ukraine and the way the European project has pulled together reassures me that we will be able to find the means of not backing down," Elina Bardram, acting director for International Affairs and Climate Finance at the European Commision, said at the Africa Energy Forum in Brussels.

"But it's clear the next few months are going to be very, very tough," she told Reuters on Wednesday.

Europe is racing to fill storage ahead of the demand winter season as it fears further disruptions in gas supplied by Russia, which has already cut off some customers.

"The unlawful invasion by Russia of Ukraine has resulted in an emergency situation in the EU," Bardram said.

"With the very rogue moves we are observing from the Putin administration in terms of Gazprom lowering the flow very suddenly, we are doing some very important measures, but all of those measures are temporary", she added, referring to coal use.

The measures would be phased out as soon as possible as the EU is determined to stick to its climate goals, she said.

"The EU's 2030 and 2050 targets remain fully intact ... while we may temporarily increase our use of coal, the long term direction is clear," added Bardram, who headed the European Commission's delegation to the 2015 Paris Climate talks.

(Reporting by Noah Browning; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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