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Ukraine calls for EU probe into gas transit issue

RIA Novosti

16/01/2009 11:07 KIEV, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has proposed setting up a special EU commission to investigate claims Ukraine stole Russian gas.

Yushchenko held talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London late on Thursday to discuss energy security issues amid the protracted Russia-Ukraine gas conflict and insisted that Ukraine had not tapped Russian gas intended for Europe.

"I want everybody to know: Ukraine has not stolen and is not stealing gas. If this problem remains so acute, we are asking the European Commission to set up a special commission to investigate the issue of Russian supplies...and most important - to find out whether Ukraine was tapping Russian gas supplies to Europe," the president's press service quoted Yushchenko as saying.

The president also said Ukraine is ready at any time to pump Russian gas to Europe even before the dispute over gas and transit prices between Kiev and Moscow is resolved. Ukraine has already given Moscow state guarantees on uninterrupted gas transits to European customers, he said.

Ukraine and Russia have been embroiled in a bitter gas dispute over gas prices and a new contract on natural gas supplies, which resulted in the suspension of deliveries to Ukraine on January 1. A week later, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom cut off supplies to Europe, saying Ukraine was stealing gas intended for EU consumers.

Following mediation by the EU, the two sides agreed to resume supplies. However, a test delivery was unsuccessful on Tuesday and Russian gas via Ukraine has so far failed to reach the EU, leading Moscow to accuse Kiev of blocking the gas deliveries.

Gazprom said on Friday that it had received a fourth refusal from Naftogaz to transit Russian gas on to Europe over "insufficient gas supply volumes" and the lack of a "technical" gas transfer agreement for 2009.

Russia insists its gas exit points have been open for four days now with gas pressure along the export pipeline sufficient to allow for the immediate resumption of gas transits to Europe.