Russian gas supplies to resume Tuesday: EU (Third lead)

January 13th, 2009 - 12:13 am ICT by IANS  

Brussels/Moscow/Kiev, Jan 12 (DPA) The European Union (EU) expects gas supplies from Russia to resume Tuesday morning, officials in Brussels said Monday following the signing of an accord on a gas monitoring mission in Russia and Ukraine.”The agreement has been signed by all parties. The gas will start flowing in the morning,” Ferran Tarradellas, spokesman for EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, said after talks in Brussels with representatives from Russia’s gas monopolist, Gazprom, and Ukraine’s Naftogaz, whose pipelines are used by Moscow to deliver gas to Europe.

Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev said that assuming there are no further “obstacles”, deliveries should resume “at 8 a.m. European time”.

A commercial dispute between Russia and Ukraine has caused severe gas shortages in Europe amid freezing winter temperatures.

Experts say that once the taps are turned back on, it should take about three days for gas from Siberia to transit through Ukraine and reach Gazprom’s European clients.

News of a potential breakthrough reached EU energy ministers as they were meeting in Brussels to discuss the consequences of the gas crisis.

“The latest information I have from Commissioner Piebalgs is that the agreement is now completely done …and so the gas should be flowing by tomorrow morning at the latest,” said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Barroso had previously received assurances from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the supply of gas was about to re-start.

His office said in a statement issued after an early morning telephone exchange with Putin that there were “no further reasons or excuses to delay the resumption of the gas supply”.

The EU-brokered deal on the deployment of international monitors in Russia and Ukraine had edged on the brink of failure over the weekend, when Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko attached a declaration next to her signature on the initial agreement, drawing protest from Russia.

Gazprom and Barroso’s office both confirmed Monday that Timoshenko had since removed the declaration.

But experts note that a series of divisive issues still need to be addressed before the dispute can be fully resolved.

These concern payments for gas needed to raise pressure in Ukraine’s pipeline system after the embargo ends, Ukraine’s possible obligation to Russia of $600 million in fines, Russia’s possible obligation to Ukraine for gas supplied to Bulgaria and Moldova, and how long the EU observer mission will operate in Ukraine.

The EU-brokered monitoring deal is also silent on the underlying cause of the Russo-Ukrainian gas crisis: the absence of a contract between the two countries for natural gas deliveries and onward transportation to Europe.

At least 12 EU states and five EU neighbours have been hit by gas shortages since Gazprom turned off all supplies to and through Ukraine - the main transit route for Russian gas heading to Europe - in a row over contracts and allegedly unpaid bills.

EU newcomer Bulgaria has seen its gas supplies cut off entirely and stocks all but exhausted, while neighbouring Serbia has been left relying on emergency transfers from Hungary and Germany.

Russia has pledged to renew the flow of gas to Europe once it is in possession of a finalised copy of the accord and the mission of gas experts is in place at compressor stations along Ukraine’s border - a key control necessary to stem alleged Ukrainian theft of gas meant for Europe, it says.

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