MOSCOW, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Russia and the European
Union (EU) on Saturday took a step towards the resumption of Russian gas
supplies to Europe as the two sides signed a protocol to set up an international
commission to monitor Russian gas transit via Ukraine.
The agreement, which has yet to be signed by Ukraine
to come into force, was endorsed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin,
Russian gas monopoly Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller and Czech Industry and Trade
Minister Martin Riman.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
(R) shakes hands with Czech Republic's Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in
Novo Ogaryovo outside Moscow January 10, 2009. (Xinhua/Reuters
Photo) Photo Gallery>>>
EU officials approved the deal following Saturday's meeting between Russian
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek, whose
country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Under the agreement, the international commission
will include representatives of Gazprom, Ukraine's energy giant Naftogaz,
Russian and Ukrainian energy ministries, the European Commission, European
companies receiving the Russian gas, and international monitoring organizations.
At a press conference after talks with Topolanek,
Putin expressed the hope that Ukraine will sign the deal on Saturday. "I assume
that this agreement will be signed in Kiev and I see no grounds for not doing
so," he said.
The Russian prime minister reiterated that gas
shipments to Europe will resume as soon as the observers get down to work.
"We will do this immediately after international
monitors take charge of entry and exit points on the border between Ukraine and
Russia as well as on Ukraine's border with other European countries," he was
quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.
He said Russia will also monitor the amount of gas
supplied to Ukraine and received by European consumers, warning that supplies
may again be reduced in the event of theft.
With some 80 percent of its gas exports to the EU passing Ukraine, Moscow accused Kiev of stealing the transit gas after Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine on Jan. 1 over a pricing dispute. Kiev denied the accusations, saying that Russia was trying to discredit Ukraine as a reliable gas transit partner.
A stop sign is seen outside the Stirol chemical plant in the town of Gorlovka in the Donetsk region January 9, 2009. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo) Photo Gallery>>>
The EU depends on Russia for one-fourth of its gas
supply. The complete cutoff of Russian gas supplies to the EU since Wednesday
has left thousands of European families without heating at the height of winter.
Topolanek arrived in Kiev on Friday and then flew to
Moscow on Saturday with the aim of brokering a deal to end the row. After
reaching an agreement with Russia, the Czech leader is expected to meet with
Ukraine's leadership in Kiev later Saturday.
Marina Soroka, Ukrainian prime minister's press
secretary, confirmed that Topolanek is to bring from Russia the protocol on
monitoring Russian gas transit through Ukraine.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Grygory Nemyrya
earlier told reporters he was "hoping" the agreement could be signed on
Saturday. "A process is underway, which in our opinion should lead to a
compromise," he said.
However, even if supplies restart, it is more likely
that the gas will be delivered only to Europe, not Ukraine, because Moscow and
Kiev still need to agree on a supply contract for 2009.
Russia has repeatedly said Ukraine must pay market
prices for its natural gas. "If the price for gas Gazprom supplies to Eastern
European states neighboring Ukraine is around 470 U.S. dollars per1,000 cubic
meters in the first quarter of 2009, then Ukraine should also pay the market
price for gas," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Friday.
Last year, Russia charged Ukraine 179.50 dollars per
1,000 cubic meters, about half what it charged its European clients.
KIEV, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Ukraine and Russia failed to
agree on a 2009 gas supply deal in the latest round of bilateral talks, Oleh
Dubyna, chief executive of Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz, said late
"Unfortunately the talks with Russian gas export monopoly
Gazprom have finished with nothing," Dubyna told reporters at Kiev airport upon
his return from Moscow. "The talks now have to proceed at a higher
level." Full story
BRUSSELS, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- European Union (EU) energy
experts urged European producers on Friday to hike production as Russian gas
supplies to Europe via Ukraine remained cut-off.
"The extent of the current gas crisis is
unprecedented in European history," energy experts from the 27 EU member states
said in a statement after a meeting with industry representatives under the
framework of the EU's gas coordination group on Friday in Brussels.Full story
MOSCOW, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Russia's state gas monopoly
Gazprom said it would resume supplies to Europe via Ukraine on Friday if an
agreement allowing a EU-led monitoring team to track gas flows through Ukraine
was signed. Full story
BRUSSELS, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) on
Friday demanded that Russia and Ukraine immediately resume gas deliveries to the
bloc's member states, saying that EU monitors for the process were already in
"There is now agreement on the details of the monitoring
mission. It is now imperative that the gas starts to flow to the EU without any
further delay," the European Commission said in a statement. Full story
BRUSSELS, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU)
reached a deal with Russia on the deployment of monitors to check gas flow via
Ukraine, paving the way for the resumption of Russian gas supplies to Europe,
the Czech EU presidency said late Thursday. "The Czech
Prime Minister and the Russian Prime Minister agreed on the conditions of
deployment of the monitoring commission at all locations that are relevant for
the flow of gas," the Czech government said in a statement. Full story