Russian natural gas could soon start flowing again into Ukraine and Europe after Russia agreed to let international observers monitor the Ukrainian pipelines.

Current European Union president, the Czech Republic, announced the deal after a day of talks between Russian, Ukrainian, and EU officials in Brussels.

Details of the agreement or exactly when gas will restart have not yet been announced.

Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine on January first because of a price dispute. Moscow then stopped all shipments to Europe through pipelines running across Ukraine earlier this week, accusing Ukraine of stealing gas.

The cut off left millions of Europeans shivering in some of the coldest temperatures of the winter so far.

EU leaders called the gas cut off unacceptable and accused Russia of using Europeans as pawns in a trade dispute.

Russia supplies a quarter of all gas consumed in EU countries.

Moscow wants Ukraine to pay the full market price for gas without the discount Ukraine has enjoyed since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But Ukraine says Russia wants double what Ukraine is prepared to pay.

Ukraine accuses Russia of refusing to negotiate a new price for sending gas shipped through Ukrainian territory.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said the crisis raises serious doubts about the reliability of Russia as an energy supplier.

Russia briefly cut gas shipments to Ukraine in January of 2006, in a previous pricing dispute that resulted in reduced gas deliveries to Europe.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.