The process of resuming delivery of Russian natural gas to Europe has
been filled with doubt and contradictions, raising questions about when
European consumers will finally see a renewed flow of supplies.
and Ukrainian acceptance of a European Union proposal to allow
observers to monitor Ukraine's pipeline system has been an
on-again-off-again process. Gas officials in Kyiv and Moscow initially
confirmed that EU and Russian observers would be allowed to check gas
flows through Ukraine and the presidents of both countries also
signaled their approval.
But the Interfax news agency quotes a
source close to the Russian government as saying the Ukrainian side is
once again casting doubt on the makeup of a multilateral monitoring
group. Earlier, Russia's Gazprom state energy monopoly issued a
statement on its Web site claiming that Ukraine had disrupted the
process of signing a protocol to authorize a multilateral monitoring
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev insists the monitoring may not proceed without a written agreement.
press center at Ukraine's Naftohaz gas company says its spokesman,
Valentyn Zemliansky, was in a briefing from mid-afternoon and would not
be available until Saturday.
However, in remarks on Tuesday, Zemliansky told VOA that Ukraine welcomes monitors.
says if truly legitimate representatives make the request, Ukraine is
prepared to let them into their monitoring stations. He says
Ukrainians have nothing to hide. The spokesman notes that Western
observers were already in Russia, adding it would be interesting to
hear what they have to say about the volumes that were being pumped
from Russia to Ukraine.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek,
whose country recently assumed the EU presidency, is expected to
discuss the monitoring with leaders in Kyiv and Moscow.
senior gas company officials for both countries are questioning the
credentials of each other's representatives to suspended contract
talks. In a televised meeting with President Dmitri Medvedev at a
winter resort near the city of Sochi, Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller
said the Ukrainian side does not appear ready to sign a contract.
says there is an impression that the Ukrainian negotiators have no
mandate and no authority to discuss the price and volume of gas for
2009. The negotiations, he says, are basically empty.
wording of a statement by Miller's Ukrainian counterpart, Naftohaz's
Oleh Dubyna is remarkably similar. Dubyna also refers to an impression
that the Russian negotiating team has no authority or mandate to sign
any contracts with Naftohaz. He adds that the Russia side appears
unprepared to continue the negotiating process.
Europe has been
the innocent bystander in the standoff between Moscow and Kyiv, which
comes during an unusually cold winter on the continent. Germany,
France and Poland report significant gas cutbacks. Supplies were
halted altogether in Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia,
Serbia and Turkey. Russia accuses Ukraine of closing pipeline valves
for European consumers and stealing gas for itself. Ukraine denies the
charge and accuses Russia of stopping delivery at its border with
Europe will see a resumption of gas with the signing of
the gas monitoring protocol, which is separate from any contracts
between Ukraine and Russia. However, a European Union spokesman says
it will take three days to get the system in full working order.