Monday 23 March 2009 | Ukraine feed | All feeds

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Ukraine blocks gas after Russia turns taps on

Ukraine has blocked the transit of gas to Europe just hours after Russia resumed deliveries.

 

A spokesman for Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz said that it had blocked the transit of gas to Europe after it was turned back on because of "unacceptable transit conditions" imposed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom.

European Union monitors confirmed that "little or no" Russian gas was flowing to Europe despite the resumption of deliveries by Gazprom a week after it turned off the supply in a dispute over prices.

Gazprom, which is controlled by allies of the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, accused the US of orchestrating Ukraine's actions. "We believed yesterday that the door for Russian gas was open but again it's been blocked by the Ukrainians," said Alexander Medvedev, the deputy CEO of Gazprom, who also claimed that Kiev and Washington had signed an agreement to the detriment of Russia.

"It looks like ... they are dancing to the music which is being orchestrated not in Kiev but outside the country," he added.

Millions of people in 18 European countries have faced almost a week of suffering bitterly cold winter temperatures without any heating or amid severe energy shortages.

The order to start pumping gas to Ukraine pipelines was issued at the Moscow headquarters of Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom at 07:00 GMT on Tuesday morning.

Gas supplies were expected to take up to three days to get through to Europe but the latest move by Kiev will crush hopes of an imminent end to the dispute, which has coincided with one of the bitterest winters for decades.

Russia provides a quarter of Europe's gas supplies and the latest energy crisis over a Moscow dispute with Ukraine, the third in four years, has damaged relations with the European Union.

Gazprom cut off supplies to the Ukraine on Jan 7 because a 2008 contract had expired and Russia has accused the country of stealing gas meant for Europe, a charge angrily denied by Kiev.

Relations between Moscow and Kiev are also tense amid deep Russian hostility to Ukraine's ambitions to join Nato.

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