Czechs boost imports of Russian gas at end of 2023, data shows
PRAGUE, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Traders in the Czech Republic returned to importing an increasing amount of Russian natural gas in the final months of 2023 after an earlier near-complete halt, foreign trade data from the Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU) shows.
The Czech Republic, a strong backer of Ukraine, weaned itself off near total dependency on Russian gas after Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, turning to gas from Norway and LNG, mainly through a terminal in the Netherlands.
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But supplies of Russian gas grew to 5.19 billion crowns ($223.71 million) in December - more than supplies from Norway - from 1.9 billion crowns in November, 700 million in October and much smaller amounts in previous months, CSU data showed.
Renewed and rising flows from the east have also been shown in gas movement data on the Czech-Slovak border, released by Czech and Slovak gas transmission system operators. These flows continued in January.
Those flows may also include some volumes of gas stored by European traders in Slovakia and Ukraine before the heating season and now sent back.
But economist Jiri Pour of UniCredit said the imported volumes were several times larger than previous flows to the east.
The Czech Industry and Trade Ministry said on Wednesday that the flows were the result of a gas glut in central Europe due to warm weather.
"This is a development given by the market situation which does not change anything of the fact that we are independent from supplies from Russia," the ministry said in emailed answer to Reuters questions.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Nick Macfie)