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A mild winter and improved infrastructure mean Europe and Ukraine are now less reliant on Russian natural gas than in past years, easing worries that the escalating crisis in Ukraine could hurt supplies.Russia is Europe's biggest gas supplier, providing around a quarter of continental demand. Russia's Gazprom said Monday that gas transit to Europe via Ukraine was normal, but it warned that it might increase prices for Kiev after the first quarter, raising concerns that gas could be used for political leverage in the crisis.After a mild winter, meteorologists expect early spring to bring warmer-than-usual conditions over most of Europe, implying weak gas demand will continue, adding to already high storage levels.In Germany, Europe's biggest gas consumer and Russia's largest customer, inventories are more than 60 percent of capacity, equivalent to around 60 days of demand.
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