European Union sends gas fact-finding mission to Ukraine

January 5th, 2009 - 7:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Jan 5 (DPA) The European Union Monday sent a fact-finding mission to Kiev in a bid to clarify the situation surrounding Russia’s shutting-off of gas supplies to Ukraine, EU officials confirmed.The delegation of top officials from the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and the European Commission, the EU executive, is set to hold talks with Ukrainian political leaders and representatives of the gas industry, a presidency spokesman said.

The delegation is also due to meet officials from Russia’s gas monopolist Gazprom Monday or Tuesday, depending on their respective schedules. Gazprom has already sent a delegation of top officials to Europe to present its side of the dispute.

The mission is headed by Czech Industry Minister Martin Riman. He is accompanied by his country’s special envoy for energy, Vaclav Bartuska, and officials from the office of EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The EU mission is intended to “keep up intense contacts” with the two sides, whose row over contracts and allegedly unpaid bills led Gazprom to shut off gas deliveries to Ukraine Thursday, the spokesman said.

Since the row began, Russia and Ukraine have issued conflicting accounts of who started it and how much impact the shut-off has had on supplies to Europe.

Reports from EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe have also given conflicting versions of the current state of gas supplies, leaving the EU’s authorities groping for accurate information.

The fact-finding mission had been planned for later this week, but was brought forward to avoid a clash with the Orthodox Christmas Wednesday, the presidency spokesman said.

The EU is heavily reliant on Russian gas which passes through Ukrainian pipelines for its energy needs. In early 2006, a similar Russo-Ukrainian dispute caused gas shortfalls across much of Europe.

EU diplomats are set to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels later Monday to exchange information over the gas crisis, the presidency spokesman said.

EU energy experts are set to meet in Brussels Friday.

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