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Russia Resumes Gas Deliveries to Ukraine

Russia's state-run energy company, Gazprom, said Wednesday it is resuming natural-gas shipments to Ukraine after the two countries resolved their dispute over payments. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

The resumption of gas deliveries followed an accord reached in a teleconference between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov explained that executives of Gazprom and Ukraine's state-run energy giant Naftogaz also participated in the negotiations.

"They reached agreements to solve the crisis with gas deliveries to Ukraine," said Kupriyanov. "Gas delivered [to Ukraine] from January 1 to March 1, 2008, will be fully documented and paid for by Ukraine after a scheme affective as of the beginning of this year. Transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine is unaffected. Restrictions on gas deliveries to Ukraine and consumers have been lifted."

Russia halved gas shipments to Ukraine, claiming it had some $600 million of unpaid bills for gas delivered in 2007.

The apparent breakthrough came after the European Union urged Ukraine and Russia to overcome their differences. A row over payments in 2006 triggered energy shortages in parts of Europe.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko denied Gazprom allegations that her country had threatened to syphon-off Russian gas destined for other European destinations to compensate for the shortfall in deliveries.

"Ukraine will deliver to the European Union all natural gas which Russia will give for transportation," said Tymoshenko. "Nobody should have any doubts about this. Naftogas is already doing more than required. Naftogaz is transporting as much natural gas to the European Union as Russia gives."

While the latest gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine seems to have been defused, it heightens concerns within the EU over its dependency on Russian energy.

Ukraine is the main transit route for Russian gas supplies to the European Union, which relies on Russia for a quarter of its gas supplies.