Ukraine could run out of coal this winter

Ukraine is facing a potential shortage of coal supplies just as it finds itself in the icy grip of winter.

With the rich coal seams of Eastern Ukraine under rebel control and Russia cutting off supplies of the heating fuel, the country may have to turn to its enemy, Mother Russia, for help, Agence France Press reported over the weekend. 

According to AFP, Ukraine gets 40 percent of its power from coal-fired plants and usually has a coal surplus, with the latest figures showing production of 86 million tonnes in 2012. But Russian-backed rebels have cut the new, Petro Poroshenko-led government off from the coal-producing region of Donbass.

"I don't know for how long Russia intends to stop coal deliveries. If it stops them for a long period, our thermal stations will not be able to function at full power," Ukraine's Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan was quoted as saying.

The country needs a million tonnes of anthracite coal per month for its power stations, but as of Nov. 24, only 1.8 million tonnes were in reserve, according to AFP.

That leaves Ukraine the option of shipping coal from abroad, buying coal from Russia, or buying it from the rebels, against whom the government's army is fighting.

It's the second time in recent months that Ukraine has faced an energy crisis over frigid relations with Russia. In June, following the election of Poroshenko to the presidency, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine.

But on Oct. 30, Ukraine, Russia and the European Union reached a deal whereby Russia would resume supplies of natural gas to Ukraine in return for payments funded partly by Kiev's Western creditors.