Keeping Ukraine warm keeps Andriy Kobolev up at night.
Mr. Kobolev, the head of Ukraine’s state energy company, Naftogaz, is scrambling to keep gas flowing into his country as winter looms. Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, had provided a little more than half of Ukraine’s total gas supply, but suspended its shipments in June in the face of fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military, citing a price dispute. Europe — itself dependent on Russia but also expanding sanctions on the country — has not been able to fill the gap.
That means Ukraine will have to cut its energy use sharply or risk running dry, which could lead to more civilian deaths when the weather turns cold, and could further batter the country’s economy.
“The situation is very difficult,” Mr. Kobolev said in a recent interview. “Since we have no choice, no other solution, we’ll find a solution and have to live with the amount of gas we will have.”
He spoke at a hotel in this city near Slovakia, just a few hours after he took part in a news conference on the other side of the border. The Slovak and Ukrainian prime ministers had held a ceremonial “switching on” of a gas pipeline that will allow the Slovaks to provide some capacity to Ukraine, but far less than the Ukrainians wanted.
Afterward, Mr. Kobolev and other company officials got in a line of three black cars — a BMW and two Hyundais — and drove a winding path through tiny border villages, zipping past a field with brown spotted cows, a shirtless man in red shorts holding a hedge trimmer, a group of boys hanging from a tree, an elderly woman wearing a kerchief.