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12 Jan, 2009 15:06

Gas flow to resume on Tuesday morning

Russia’s Gazprom is due to resume gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday at 8.00am GMT, when the newly signed three-way gas transit deal between Russia, Ukraine and the EU comes into power.

According to Russia's envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, the European Commission was the last of the three parties to sign it on Monday after Russia and Ukraine.

Earlier, Moscow put the agreement on hold after Kiev signed the paper with a note “with declaration attached”.

The sticking point was the additional document that Ukraine had added to the agreement. Russia said the additions contradicted the original text of the agreement and included obvious lies. One of the points said Ukraine had paid all the debts to Gazprom in full, while the other stated Ukraine had not stolen gas earmarked for Europe.

Eventually Ukraine had to withdraw this additional document and sign the deal without it. Later, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko ordered the government to guarantee Russian gas transits to Europe.

His government will be aided in this by international monitors, whose presence is the main condition of the new transit deal. They have already arrived at the assigned points to control the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine.

No gas since January 7

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after talks on debt and a gas price for 2009 broke down and was forced to fully stop sending gas through Ukraine on January 7, to prevent the theft of any gas bound for Europe.

Since then Europe has not received any gas from Russia via Ukraine, through which 80% of Russia’s supplies to Europe pass. Some 20 countries were affected by the gas row.

Homes are unheated, schools and businesses closed and people are freezing because of the deadlock. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans have faced severe gas shortages, but Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Serbia are feeling the brunt, while Germany, also hit by the halt, has tapped into its reserves.

Both Ukraine and Russia have been criticised by the European Union for letting the dispute go so far.