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12 Jan, 2009 12:43

Gas tug-of-war: Ukraine’s unconditional surrender

A three-way gas transit deal between Russia, Ukraine and the EU has been signed without attaching amendments, according to Gazprom, which held crucial talks in Kiev on Monday morning.

Moscow says gas supplies to Europe will start as soon as it has received the official document setting out an agreement on transit monitoring.

Meanwhile, a source in the Russian government says Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Gazprom’s CEO Aleksey Miller will sign the final document on gas transit in Brussels later on Monday.

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 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.

Monitors have already arrived at the assigned points to control the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine. Gazprom says it will resume a full gas supply to Europe only when the monitors confirm there has been no theft of gas. Gazprom’s condition is made in connection with the agreement reached by Ukraine, Russia and the EU, allowing international monitors to check the flow of gas through its territory.

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

Europe has not received any gas from Russia since Moscow was forced to fully stop sending gas through Ukraine on January 7. 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.