- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

MOSCOW

Russia on Sunday asked the European Union to provide monitoring of Ukraine’s natural-gas transit system and charged that Ukraine was stealing gas bound for Europe, as Kiev hit back with its own charges.

The exchange of accusations added to a furious row over payments demanded by Russia’s Gazprom for gas supplied to its ex-Soviet neighbor.

“Given that [Ukrainian state energy company] Naftogaz is not allowing monitors engaged by Gazprom into gas-monitoring stations in Ukraine, we sent a letter to the European Commission with proposals for ensuring independent monitoring of volumes of gas transiting Ukrainian territory,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said in televised comments.

“In the last 24 hours, we delivered to the entry of the Ukrainian transit system 295 million cubic meters; in other words, more than needed by European consumers, and at the exit received 270 million cubic meters. So they stole 25 million cubic meters,” he said.

In Kiev, Naftogaz blamed Russia for a reduction in natural-gas supplies transiting Ukraine, saying Russia was “manipulating” the supply route and that Moscow had given notice it was cutting supplies through one branch of the transit network, known as Soyuz.

Naftogaz “urges Gazprom to stop technical manipulation of volumes and gas-supply routes, synchronize the work of the gas-distribution systems of Russia, Ukraine and Europe” and resume talks, Naftogaz said.

Gazprom was planning to cut supplies through the Soyuz route by 52 million cubic meters a day to 20 million cubic meters, with “unpredictable consequences for the entire gas-distribution system in Europe,” Naftogaz said.

On Saturday, a handful of Eastern European countries reported cuts in Russian gas supplies in connection with the gas-payment dispute that has broken out between Moscow and Kiev.

Romania said supplies were 30 percent below the normal level, while Poland said deliveries had dropped 11 percent from Friday and remained at that level on Saturday, and Bulgaria reported a cut of between 10 percent and 15 percent.

The disruption began after Russia cut gas supplies intended for the Ukrainian market on New Year’s Day in a row over payment for supplies Ukraine received in November and December, fines for late payment and the price for 2009 supplies.

Ukraine is the main route for Russian gas supplies to the EU, which relies on Russia for about a quarter of its gas needs.

Unlike a similar gas dispute in 2006, experts say EU states and Ukraine itself have accumulated sufficient gas reserves to cope without fresh Russian supplies for several weeks or longer.

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