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Russia-Ukraine gas talks to resume January 8 - Naftogaz

RIA Novosti

06/01/2009 18:49 KIEV, January 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russian-Ukrainian gas talks will resume January 8, a spokesman for Ukraine's energy company Naftogaz said Tuesday.

The Russian energy monopoly said it was ready to resume talks at any moment.

"We are surprised by the declared intention to only continue talks on January 8. We are ready to resume talks at any moment," Sergei Kupriyanov said.

The gas negotiations were halted on December 31, 2008 following direct orders from Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said.

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.

Around 80% of Russia's gas exports to Europe pass through Ukraine.

Miller has accused Naftogaz of tapping Russian gas, which Ukraine denied, blaming Russia for creating the shortfall by deliberately cutting deliveries to Europe.

"The claims that Ukraine has blocked all transit routes to Europe and that Europe is stealing gas are groundless," Naftogaz CEO Oleg Dubyna said.

With Ukraine's gas debt to Russia from 2008 unresolved and no contract agreed for 2009 deliveries, the issue of Russian gas flowing through Ukrainian pipes to European consumers further west has become contentious.

In response to a claim by Ukraine's energy ministry, the Kiev economic court ruled on Monday that Naftogaz could not pump Russian gas westwards at a price of $1.6 for 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers.

Both Gazprom and Naftogaz have said that they will file lawsuits with the Stockholm Arbitration Court, which deals with international commercial legal disputes. The court on Monday said it could not comment on whether it was considering lawsuits from either party in the gas dispute.

Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said Ukraine had shut down three of four pipelines that export Russian gas to Europe, severely disrupting supplies.

Medvedev said Ukraine had acted "irresponsibly" and urged Russia's "partners" to help solve the problem.

However, the German economics and technology minister said Russia and Ukraine should settle their dispute between themselves and that Germany or the EU could not act as intermediaries in that situation.

"Germany and the EU are consumers of Russian gas that is supplied through Ukraine. But we are neither intermediaries nor even a party to the conflict," Michael Glos said, adding Kiev and Moscow should resume bilateral negotiations.

The EU has called the substantial cuts in Russian gas supplies to some member states "completely unacceptable."

Russian gas supplies through Ukraine to Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey have been halted. The Apcom agency said Russian gas supplies to Italy were suspended in the early hours of Tuesday but then resumed.

Gas deliveries to the Czech Republic have fallen by 75%, while Poland could reduce gas supplies to its industrial enterprises following the Russian cuts of gas deliveries to Western Europe through Ukraine, a Polish deputy economics minister said.

There have also been reports about cuts in gas supplies to other countries.

Gazprom said it would pump more gas through alternative routes via Belarus and Turkey to ensure European supplies were not affected.

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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