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16 Jan, 2009 13:30

Gas transit can be unblocked by Russia-EU agreements

Russia and its partners are reaching agreements that may finally unblock Moscow's gas supplies to Europe, according to Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has met with German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin.

The plan is to help pay for gas Ukraine claims it needs for technical reasons to pump Russian supplies to Europe – ‘process gas’ it has been looking for free from Russian energy giant Gazprom.

“I've met in Berlin with representatives of European companies, which are the main buyers of our gas. It seems to me we are reaching interesting agreements that could unblock gas transit,” Putin said at a joint news conference with the German leader.

“We have agreed with madam Chancellor that it would be useful to set up a team of international experts, in accordance with a protocol signed earlier, to check the technical status of Ukraine's gas transportation system to determine the optimal routes to export our gas to Europe. It needs to be done to ensure gas export and guarantee that there will be no gas stolen. I hope this mechanism will be set up as soon as possible,” the Russian premier said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has once again stressed that it's essential that Russia can resume gas exports to Europe in full.

“It is important to resume gas deliveries not only to Slovakia or a certain Balkan country. It is vital to resume gas deliveries to Western Europe in full volume”.

Earlier Moscow came up with a proposal that Europe should share the cost of pumping gas through Ukraine. The idea to set up a consortium of European countries won support from a number of major European energy companies. Prime Minister Putin agreed upon principles for a gas consortium with the heads of Italy’s Eni, Gaz de France and German Ruhrgas.

Germany is one of the largest consumers of Russian natural gas and has been badly affected by the current crisis.

No gas since January 7

On January 7 2009, Ukraine shut all four pipelines that send gas to Europe, causing several countries to run out of fuel. Before that Ukraine was stealing the Russian gas bound for European consumers, according to Gazprom and the results of an independent monitoring by a national resource analysts’ group from Switzerland. After that Russia made a decision to stop gas supplies via Ukraine to prevent the illegal siphoning.

Ukraine also insists Russia should supply ‘process gas’ (maintenance gas needed to keep product flowing through the pipes) before it can guarantee the uninterrupted transit of supplies to Europe. However, Gazprom dismisses the idea, saying Ukraine has to pay for process gas or buy it elsewhere according to the contract between the Russian and the Ukrainian gas companies.