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Russia Opens Gas Valves to Europe

By Peter Fedynsky
13 January 2009

Russia has resumed the flow of natural gas to Europe, amid an ongoing contract dispute between Moscow and Kyiv that sparked the current energy crisis on the continent.

The resumption of the delivery of gas, ordered Monday by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was carried out, as scheduled, at 10 am by the main dispatcher of the Gazprom state energy company.

The dispatcher was shown on national television, ordering gas delivery through Ukraine at a rate of over 3 million cubic meters per hour for consumers in the Balkans, Turkey and Moldova.

A regional dispatcher, near the Ukrainian border, identifies himself as Sivirenko. He says he understands the order and will proceed to carry it out.

The Balkans were hardest hit by the gas shutoff. Bulgaria, Croatia and Bosnia had no reserves to fall back on and were forced to cut heat to homes, schools and hospitals. It will take up to three days to re-pressurize the pipeline system before it is back in full working order.

Russia agreed to resume deliveries after the European Union added its signature to a gas-monitoring protocol between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow insisted that observers monitor the flow of gas through Ukrainian territory to make certain Kyiv is not siphoning the fuel destined for Europe, an allegation Russia has made and which Ukraine has denied.

Ukraine's contract for its supply of Russian gas expired on December 31, prompting Moscow to withhold the Ukrainian share of fuel on New Year's Day. Europe was cut-off on January Seventh, amid mutual recriminations between Moscow and Kyiv.

There is no word on when the two sides will resume contract negotiations.

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