Russia set to resume European gas supplies after deal
AFP - 31 minutes ago
MOSCOW, (AFP) - - Russia and Ukraine prepared on Sunday to restart gas supplies to the European Union after a deal was signed on deploying international monitors to help adjudicate in Moscow and Kiev's gas conflict.
The stage was set for a resumption of supplies by the EU's largest foreign gas provider Russia after shuttle-diplomacy by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek secured both sides' agreement to the deployment of monitors.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier said supplies to the EU could resume "immediately" after the monitors began work, although he warned Ukraine that Moscow "will not tolerate theft" of its gas.
The Russian broadsheet Kommersant said an end to the cut-off was in sight but predicted EU states would in future unite to lessen dependence on Russian gas, meaning a resurgence of nuclear power and the use of other gas sources in North Africa and Central Asia.
"From tomorrow, Gazprom's gas transit to the European Union could be renewed and the gas war will again become a propaganda one," Kommersant said.
"The EU will undoubtedly try to find ways of reducing dependence on Russian gas supplies and avoiding such crises in future," the paper said, predicting a push to develop a proposed pipeline from Central Asia known as "Nabucco."
After Moscow and Kiev's agreement to a deal, Czech Trade and Industry Minister Martin Riman said it would be possible for Russian gas flows to the EU to resume later on Sunday, although EU officials have said it could take three days to restore gas supplies to full volume.
Topolanek, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said the deployment of the monitors was "a matter of hours."
The gas crisis has taken a heavy toll on a dozen states, notably in central Europe and the Balkans, leaving thousands of homes in several countries without heat and forcing factories, schools and public facilities to close.
The text of the accord signed by Putin, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the EU was not initially made public but was thought to provide for experts from Russia, Ukraine, the EU and European energy companies to monitor the transit network through Ukraine and prevent foul play.
While Ukraine has denied Russian accusations of stealing Russian gas bound for Europe, the system is notorious for a lack of transparency and the involvement of shady middlemen with links in political circles on both sides.
Although the accord was expected to lead to a quick resumption of Russian gas flow to Europe, it did not resolve the bilateral dispute between Russia and Ukraine at the origin of the crisis.
At her press conference, Tymoshenko said: "We will try to continue negotiations with Russia through all possible channels" on a new gas contract.
Russia cut supplies to the domestic Ukrainian market on January 1 after the failure of talks on payment for gas supplies to Ukraine delivered in November and December and on payment of about half a billion dollars in fines for late payment.
Onward supplies to the EU via Ukraine were progressively reduced, with Putin ordering a full stop on January 7.
The crisis has highlighted the EU's dependence on the Soviet-built gas transit network through Ukraine for a large part of the bloc's gas needs, as well as divisions within the EU on how to deal with this.
At issue in the accord between Russia and Ukraine's leaders -- each side negotiating from their separate capitals -- was the composition of the monitoring team and Ukrainian concerns it would have a Russian bias.
Ukrainian officials earlier complained the monitoring team would be dominated by European companies with ties to Russia, such as Germany's E.ON, Italy's ENI and France's Suez.
Tymoshenko said the agreement was "harsher" on Ukraine than a prior EU draft had been.
Kommersant noted that unlike in previous gas disputes with Ukraine, Putin had overtly been in charge of Russian decision-making, with state gas officials clearly doing his bidding and President Dmitry Medvedev in a back-seat role.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
Related Articles: World
Russia set to resume European gas supplies after dealAFP - 31 minutes ago
Nepal hit by 16-hour power cutsAFP - 36 minutes ago
Six soldiers, 40 militants killed in NW Pakistan: officialAFP - 37 minutes ago
UK-World SummaryReuters - 1 hour 13 minutes ago
Israel tells Gazans to brace for war escalationAP - 1 hour 26 minutes ago
A new born baby sleeps next to an electric heater in Sofia's maternity hospital. Russia and Ukraine prepared on Sunday to restart gas supplies to the European Union after a deal was signed on deploying international monitors to help adjudicate in Moscow and Kiev's gas conflict
Most Popular – World
Is Tintin gay? Cartoon birthday boy dogged by rumours
Citigroup: 2-billion-dollar exposure to LyondellBasell
Half the planet could be hit by food crisis by 2100: study
Marks & Spencer to axe 1,230 jobs and close 27 stores
Finance fights sex for Aussie dictionary honour
View Complete List »