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Russia to Resume Gas Deliveries to Europe


The delivery of Russian natural gas is expected to resume Tuesday morning after Ukraine, Russia and the European Union signed a protocol allowing observers to monitor pipelines that transport the fuel across Ukraine. Moscow and Kyiv came to an agreement following the collapse of an earlier deal over the weekend.

The Deputy Chairman of Russia's Gazprom state gas monopoly, Alexander Medvedev, says delivery of gas to Europe will resume under the condition that no obstacles are created to prevent the reopening of pipeline valves.

Medvedev says the company assumes such obstacles will not be created, and the transit of gas from Russia to Ukraine can begin at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, Central European time, or 10:00 a.m. Moscow time. He adds that everyone hopes this will indeed happen.

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 Ukraine has denied.

An earlier protocol, which Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signed on Saturday, fell apart over Russian objections to remarks she added to the agreement. Ukrainian officials say those remarks were not legally binding, but Moscow objected, saying they changed the substance of the agreement.

Ms. Tymoshenko's signing statement said Ukraine did not steal Russian gas, and demanded that Russia provide fuel to maintain the pressure needed to pump it to Europe. The amount Ukraine says is needed for technical gas is the same amount Russia claims Kyiv had been stealing since January 1 - 21 million cubic meters per day. Russia refuses to provide gas for technical purposes, saying it pays Ukraine a transit fee for such fuel.

But Oleksiy Hudyma, energy advisor to Prime Minister Tymoshenko, told VOA Russia and Ukraine have no gas transport contract, which exposes his country to possible financial liabilities. He says that prior to 2006, Russia provided Ukraine with technical gas, which Kyiv sold to cover its transport costs. Since then, Hudyma claims Moscow, has insisted on paying cash instead of providing payment in kind.

The advisor agrees that Ukraine received cash for the transport of Russian gas, and bought technical gas from Russia with that money. But Hudyma notes that as of January 1, 2009, there are no contracts or agreements between Russia and Ukraine. He says, therefore, the two countries have no legal obligations, which is why they need to sit down and sign contracts.

Contract negotiations between Ukraine and Russia broke off December 31 and have yet to resume. Delivery of Russian gas to Europe was completely cut off on January 7, with Kyiv and Moscow blaming one another for shutting the valves. Tuesday's resumption of delivery to Europe is not contingent upon any gas contracts between Russia and Ukraine.

Experts say it will take about three days to re-pressurize the pipelines before Russian gas can finally reach Europe.

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