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Russia Endorses Slovak Plan for Gas Swap

By VOA News
14 January 2009

Russia says it has accepted a Slovak proposal to organize a natural gas swap under which Ukraine would export gas to heat-starved Slovakia and Russia would restock depleted Ukrainian reserves.

Authorities said the proposal, made Wednesday in Moscow, would meet Slovakia's daily need for 20 million cubic meters of gas. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

The proposal is the first public sign of possible progress in the bitter week-long Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute that has left much of Europe freezing without adequate heat.

The head of Russia's state-run gas monopoly Gazprom, Alexei Miller, says Moscow will consider a similar plan for Moldova. Other European countries would not benefit.

Earlier Wednesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Ukraine has "fulfilled all steps" to ensure that available Russian natural gas is piped through her country to western Europe.

But Ms. Tymoshenko says Russia sent gas Tuesday destined for Europe along a pipeline route that would require Ukraine to cut off supplies to its own people in the eastern part of the country.

Ms. Tymoshenko also said the amount of Russian gas sent Tuesday was too small to build adequate pipeline pressure.

Russia cut all gas supplies to the West last week in a pricing dispute with Kyiv. A bilateral deal was signed Monday restarting gas supplies to the West, but no shipments have been received.

The European Union Wednesday said it will advise member states to file lawsuits against Russian and Ukrainian energy companies if gas flow does not resume immediately.

In Strasbourg (France), European Commission President Jose Barroso told the European parliament it is "unacceptable and incredible" that gas supplies have not resumed following Monday's deal. Barroso said that if the agreement is not honored, it means Russia and Ukraine can no longer be considered reliable, and that alternative sources of gas supply and transit must be found.

Europe receives about a quarter of its natural gas from Russia. Most of the Russian gas is shipped through pipelines crossing Ukraine.

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