Russia-Ukraine gas monitoring deal done: EU (Lead)

January 9th, 2009 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Jan 9 (DPA) Russia and Ukraine have agreed on the details of a monitoring mission designed to ensure that Russian gas destined for the European Union is not siphoned off as it travels through Ukrainian pipelines, officials in Brussels said Friday.”There is now agreement on the details of the monitoring mission,” the European Commission said in a statement.

“It is now imperative that the gas starts to flow to the European Union without any further delay,” the EU’s executive arm said.

The breakthrough came after overnight discussions brokered by the EU saw Russian and Ukrainian authorities accept to host both EU monitors and experts from their neighbouring country, officials in Brussels said.

Ukraine had Thursday refused to let Russian gas monitors on its oil, as demanded by Moscow.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had said Thursday that Russia would reopen gas flow to Europe only after European monitors are in place in Ukraine to monitor its safe flow.

“What must happen today is that controlling mechanisms are put in place and monitors are sent to the border where our gas enters Ukrainian territory,” Putin told journalists in televised comments Thursday.

Putin said the government in Kiev had “collapsed” and showed proof of a “high-level criminal structure”.

Without third party pressure and controls Kiev would refuse to sign a new contract for gas supplies in 2009, he said.

“Only when these controls are in place then people (in Urkaine) will sit down and talk and there will be gas,” Putin said, adding that he would hold telephone talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

In talks with European Union (EU) officials earlier Thursday, the head of Russia’s Gazprom, Alexei Miller, and the head of Ukraine’s Naftogaz, Oleh Dubyna, agreed to reopen gas supplies as long as EU experts monitor the flow of gas via Ukraine, the EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in Brussels.

EU officials confirmed the bloc’s readiness to send gas experts to Ukraine to monitor the flow of gas bound for Europe.

Europe received only about 40 percent of its usual import volumes as a biting winter hit it. Tens of thousands in at least 20 countries have been affected by the shortages felt as far downstream as Italy and France.

Russia’s gas monopolist Gazprom cut shipments to Ukraine on New Year when talks fell through for a 2009 gas contract. Each side blamed the other for the transit default.

The current crisis has escalated way past previous cut offs by Russia in 2006 and last March with the EU demanding both sides immediately resolve their dispute.

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