By Pavel Polityuk
KYIV (Reuters) - The launch of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will mean Europe will be solely dependent on Moscow-run pipelines as the Ukrainian route for gas delivery to Europe disappears, the head of Ukraine's gas transit operator said.
Russia's Gazprom has almost completed the construction of Nord Stream 2, which can divert transit gas flows still going through Ukraine to Europe, but the company may face difficulties in its authorisation.
"If Gazprom achieves the launch of Nord Stream 2 and we are forced to optimize the (Ukrainian) system, there will be no option for Europe to return to Ukraine," Sergiy Makogon told Reuters.
Ukraine has described the pipeline a Russian weapon and a threat to European security and says it is not too late to stop the project.
Russian officials have said the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream gas pipelines are designed to improve the energy security of Europe.
A decrease in Russian gas supplies to Europe has led to a rapid rise in prices, and Makogon said in order to convince Europeans to use the new gas pipeline, Gazprom may take tough measures.
During the gas "war" with Ukraine in 2006 and 2009, Gazprom temporarily suspended transit to Europe at the middle of winter, and current record low gas reserves in European storage would not compensate for any possible supply interruptions.
"People just have a short memory - 2009 is the year when Russia's Gazprom made Europe freeze," Makogon said.
In July, the leaders of Germany and the United States announced an agreement that was supposed to partially ease Kyiv's concerns about the new pipeline, but Ukraine says that is the only promise it has seen so far.
Kyiv fears that from 2024 Gazprom will stop transit and the Russian company has already begun to cut supplies and Hungary may stop receiving gas through Ukraine from October while Poland may stop using the route from 2023.
"As soon as it (Gazprom) has the technical ability to bypass Ukraine, regardless of any costs, it goes to it. And we expect that as soon as Nord Stream 2 is completed, it (Gazprom) will do everything to abandon the physical transit," Makogon said.
Germany has promised assistance in extending the transit agreement but Ukraine says only the booking of Ukrainian transit facilities by European companies for many years would be a real guarantee.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by David Evans)