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Russia and Ukraine Fail to Resolve Gas Dispute

  • VOA News

Russian gas deliveries to Europe remain suspended, after Russia and Ukraine on Friday failed to reach a deal to monitor gas flow through Ukraine.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, is expected to fly to Moscow on Saturday after overseeing Friday's negotiations in Kyiv.

Both sides traded blame after Friday's negotiations failed to result in a deal on a mechanism to monitor gas deliveries. Russia's state-run energy firm, Gazprom, has pledged to resume deliveries to Europe once a deal is signed.

Gazprom said in a statement that Kyiv disrupted Friday's negotiations.

But Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said that Ukraine is prepared to sign a deal on a monitoring mechanism as soon as possible.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told reporters (Friday) his country will gladly guarantee that Russian gas shipments reach Europe -- once Russia starts supplying the gas.

The Ukrainian leaders also strongly denied Russia's charges that Ukraine is "stealing" Russian gas. They said Ukraine currently is ensuring Europe's gas from its own supplies.

European Union observers arrived in Kyiv Friday morning. But Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said the monitors cannot proceed until Moscow and Kyiv sign a protocol on how the mission will operate.

EU authorities have warned that even after Moscow resumes gas shipments, it will take at least three days before the deliveries reach all EU member countries.

Meanwhile, millions of Europeans are left shivering in some of the coldest temperatures of the winter so far. Russia supplies one-quarter of all gas consumed in EU countries.

Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine on January first in a price dispute. Moscow stopped all shipments to Europe through pipelines running across Ukraine Wednesday, accusing Ukrainian authorities of stealing gas.

Moscow wants Ukraine to pay the full market price for gas without the discount Ukraine has enjoyed since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But Ukraine says Russia wants double what Ukraine is prepared to pay.

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