Medvedev rescinds agreement on gas monitors

January 12th, 2009 - 9:31 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow/Prague, Jan 12 (DPA) Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has rescinded a European Union (EU)-brokered accord for monitors to measure gas flow to Europe, citing changes by Ukraine.Moscow Sunday said that it would not reopen gas supplies to Europe via Ukrainian pipelines without a signed copy of the deal and before international monitors are in place.

In a televised statement, Medvedev urged EU officials to pressure Ukraine into withdrawing a “false” addendum to the document that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ratified Saturday.

Putin also protested the addition during a telephone call with European Commission (legislative body of the EU) President Jose Manuel Barroso Sunday evening.

With the additions, Ukraine had not only distorted the meaning of the document that had been signed by all sides but it had also introduced issues that had nothing to do with the gas dispute, Putin claimed.

The Czech Republic’s energy envoy Vaclav Bartuska, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the so-called declaration by the Ukrainian side did not change the legality of the mandate for the observer mission.

“From our point of view, the agreement is fully valid. EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs clearly explained that the one-sided declaration by Ukraine is not a component of the agreement,” he told DPA by telephone.

“Unfortunately, we see that there are people on both sides for whom transparent transit amounts to an economic loss,” Bartuska said.

“We regret that personal profit of these people was more important than interests of people in Russia, Ukraine and the EU.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Medvedev that Ukraine’s signed copy that he saw had included a stipulation by Kiev that the deal was only valid with its additions.

“Such reservations and additions are nothing but mockery of common sense and violation of earlier agreements. In fact, they aim to thwart gas transit control. They are clearly provocative and destructive,” Medvedev told Lavrov.

A spokesman for Russian gas monopolist Gazprom said the addition calls for the company to pump a “technical” supply of 21 million cubic metres of gas to Ukraine “free of charge” to maintain pressure through the pipelines.

The amount is that which Gazprom accused Ukraine of siphoning off from supplies destined to Europe before it fully halted all deliveries through the country.

Kiev’s stipulation cuts short the mandate for the observer mission to two months.

Ukrainian and EU gas experts, meanwhile, started arriving at a gas compressor station near the Ukrainian-Russian border Sunday, Russian news agencies said. There were no Russian observers.

Thousands of people in at least 20 EU countries were suffering after gas supplies were cut off last week after Russia completely stopped the flow through Ukraine Wednesday. Each side blames the other for the disruptions.

Europe depends on Russia for a quarter of its gas needs, of which 80 percent is pumped through Ukraine. It has increased supplies through smaller pipelines in Belarus and under the Black Sea, but only half of normal deliveries were reaching Europe.

It would take 36 hours for Russian gas to reach the EU border with Ukraine once Gazprom opens the taps, experts have said.

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