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EU losing trust in Ukraine over gas transit row - Slovak PM

RIA Novosti

14/01/2009 17:12 NOVO-OGARYOVO, January 14 (RIA Novosti) - European partners are losing trust in Ukraine over problems with Russian gas transits to the EU, the Slovak prime minister said on Wednesday at talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The Prime ministers of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Moldova, which have been badly affected by the gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia, gathered for emergency gas talks at Putin's residence outside Moscow to try and resolve the crisis and resume gas supplies to Europe.

"I told [Ukrainian Prime Minister] Tymoshenko: Ukraine is losing the trust of European partners due to its behavior," Robert Fico said, adding that his country was not going to judge who was to blame in the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute.

Earlier Slovakia warned the country would run out of gas within 12 days if gas flows from Russia were not resumed.

For a second day Russia said that Ukraine's national energy company Naftogaz had refused to accept Russian gas due to be transited to Europe.

Commenting on the concerns of his European partners, Putin said Russia's conflict with Ukraine was only about gas supplies to Ukraine itself, not about gas flow through the country.

"This is a conflict over supplies, conditions and the price of gas for Ukraine itself," the Russian premier said.

Russian energy giant Gazprom earlier said that as Ukraine had refused a preferential price of $250 per 1,000 cubic meters it would now have to pay "the average European market price of $450-470."

Slovakia, which also pays Russia the market price of $450 per 1,000 cubic meters, threatened "measures that have never been taken in the Slovak history," Fico said.

He added that Slovakian experts planned to discuss a number of specific proposals with Gazprom officials, unless gas supplies resume soon.

The Russian premier warned that no transit country had the right to take advantage of its position and take European gas consumers hostage.

"No transit country has the right to abuse its status, or speculate to take consumers in Europe hostage," Putin said.

He urged the European Commission to put more pressure on Kiev to ensure gas transits to Europe via Ukraine.

"European Commission members could put more pressure on the transit country to secure the interest of EU members," Putin said.

He also said Russia was ready to consider other scenarios to resume gas flows to Europe.

"We hear our Ukrainian colleagues say there are some problems, but these are not our problems. They [Ukraine] should solve these problems on their own," Putin said.

Ukraine has claimed that Russia has not provided enough "technical gas" necessary to maintain pipeline pressure and pump the required volumes to Europe. Kiev also said that Moscow had demanded a complicated transit route be used that would force Ukraine to cut its domestic supplies.

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