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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ukraine and Russia swap accusations as gas dispute continues

MOSCOW, January 3 (RIA Novosti) - The gas dispute between Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz is set to continue with both sides swapping accusations on Saturday as EU states reported drops in Russian gas deliveries via Ukraine. As temperatures plummeted across Europe, a number of EU countries reported decreases in Russian supplies after Russia's Gazprom cut gas deliveries supplies on Thursday to Ukraine amid a long-standing dispute over a $2 billion unpaid debt and gas prices for 2009. Romania, which gets around 65% of its gas supplies from Russia, said gas flows from Ukraine had fallen by 30-40%, while Polish company Gaz-System registered decreases of 11%. Around 80% of all Russian gas exported to Europe is transited through Ukraine. Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller, said at a Gazprom meeting that "consumers in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Poland and the Balkans had registered unauthorized gas tapping on Ukrainian territory," adding that the company would ensure additional gas supplies were pumped to Europe. Ukraine's state-run Naftogaz denied it was siphoning gas and accused Gazprom of cutting gas deliveries to Europe to cause a shortfall. A company press spokesman also said that gas deliveries to Romania had been resumed and blamed a technical problem with Ukraine's pipeline network. "Two hours ago I received information, that supplies to Romania were back to normal," Valentin Zemlyansky told Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio. Gazprom deputy CEO, Alexander Medvedev, told a press conference in Prague, which holds the EU presidency, on Saturday that the Russian company was still waiting for a response from Ukraine on further talks. Medvedev is due to visit a number of EU cities to try and reassure leaders of Gazprom's reliability as a gas supplier to European consumers following a similar halt in Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine three years ago. Oleh Dubyna the chief of Ukraine's Naftogaz said that the state-run company was ready to travel to Moscow to sign a "new mutual deal" at any time, but was not prepared to pay the $418 per 1,000 cu m for Russian gas demanded Gazprom. Ukraine rejected a price of $250 proposed by Russia at last-ditch talks on Wednesday in Moscow. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the price was tantamount to "humanitarian aid," however Ukraine said it was only prepared to pay $201. The EU is due to meet on Monday in Brussels to discuss the current gas dispute, earlier the EU urged both sides to engage in further talks, stressing in a statement that "All existing commitments to supply and transit must be honored."

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