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UPDATE 1-Gazprom pauses gas supply to Russia's Kaliningrad region

(Adds Gazprom’s comments)

VILNIUS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Russian gas producer Gazprom has suspended natural gas supplies to the west Russian enclave of Kaliningrad since Monday, according to the gas transmission operator in neighbouring Lithuania.

Gazprom has a transit agreement with the Lithuanian operator to transport natural gas via a pipeline from the Belarus-Lithuania border to the Kaliningrad region, which is separated from the Russian mainland.

Amber Grid, which operates Lithuania’s gas transmission system, said it had been informed by Gazprom on Monday that the Russian gas giant was “temporarily ceasing” supplies to Kaliningrad. Gazprom gave no reason for the move and Amber Grid said Lithuanian supplies were not disrupted.

“All such gas supply disruptions in the past were forewarned, and done either for scheduled maintenance or tests. This one was ad-hoc,” a spokeswoman for Amber Grid said.

“The natural gas needs of the Kaliningrad region are currently being fully satisfied by the underground Kaliningrad storage,” Gazprom said in emailed comments.

The Amber Grid spokeswoman said supplies stopped at around noon GMT on Monday and live data on Amber Grid’s website on Tuesday showed that no gas was crossing the Lithuania-Kaliningrad border.

The Kaliningrad enclave, home to the Russian Baltic Fleet and a deployment location for Russian nuclear-capable Iskander missiles, is sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an LNG import ship in Kaliningrad in January 2019, hailing it as energy security for the enclave against gas pipeline disruptions.

The ship, Marshal Vasilevskiy, has been leased out as a tanker and is currently en route to China with an LNG cargo loaded in Cameroon, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Gazprom transported 26,002 gigawatthours (GWh) of gas via the pipeline to Kaliningrad in 2019.

Lithuania receives a third of its gas supplies from Gazprom via the pipeline.

The country relied solely on Gazprom for its gas supplies until 2014, when it launched its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facility and now imports most of its gas from Norway and elsewhere.

The facility also imports gas for Latvia, Estonia and, since last year, Finland - countries which also previously relied solely on Gazprom. (Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Additional reporting by Oksana Kobzeva in Moscow; Editing by Susan Fenton and Louise Heavens)

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