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Czech Republic says Russian gas supplies back to normal

RIA Novosti

05/01/2009 17:38 WARSAW, January 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russian gas supplies to the Czech Republic, earlier affected by the Russian-Ukraine gas dispute, are back to normal, Martin Chalupsky, RWE Transgas spokesman, said on Monday.

Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday after last-ditch talks with Kiev on a new deal for 2009 and debt repayments failed late on New Year's Eve. Some EU countries, including Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania, have reported drops in Russian gas supplied through Ukraine's pipeline network.

RWE Transgas earlier reported a drop of 5% in Russian gas delivered via Ukraine on Sunday. The Czech Republic receives 75% of all its gas needs from Russian, with 25% coming from Norway.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller accused Ukraine's state-run Naftogaz of tapping Russian gas. Ukraine denied the claim and blamed Russia for the shortfall, saying it was deliberately cutting deliveries to Europe.

Local analysts have hinted that Kiev decided to restore Czech supplies in full to avoid antagonizing the country, which took over the EU presidency on January 1.

Both the Ukraine and Gazprom have visited the Czech Republic in the last few days for meetings in an attempt to lobby support as the war of words intensified between Moscow and Kiev.

However, the European Union has been reluctant to take sides in the dispute. The Czech deputy prime minister, Alexander Vondra, said earlier that "Russia and Ukraine must [resolve the dispute] quickly. There is no other way to solve the conflict. We refuse to be part of this dispute."

Official spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that Gazprom had pumped 295 million cubic meters of gas into the Ukrainian pipeline system on Sunday but European consumers had only received 270 million cubic meters.

He said another 25 million cubic meters had been withheld from European consumers because Naftogaz had not transferred the required volume from its underground storage facilities for gas trader RosUkrEnergo to export.

The dispute between Moscow and Kiev has reawakened concerns in Europe about the reliability of Russia as a supplier after a similar dispute between Russian and Ukraine in 2006 disrupted supplies.

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