Russian gas begins flowing across Ukraine

Natural gas from Russia began flowing across Ukraine again on Tuesday morning, nearly two weeks after the key pipeline feeding parts of Europe had been closed.

Natural gas from Russia began flowing across Ukraine again on Tuesday morning, nearly two weeks after the key pipeline feeding parts of Europe had been closed.

The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom opened the flow around 10:30 a.m. Moscow time, spokesman Boris Sapozhnikov said from a metering station in a town in western Russia. Officials at another station on the Russian-Ukrainian border confirmed the gas was moving.

Millions of Europeans were left in the cold after Russia halted supplies on Jan. 7 over a dispute with Ukraine about a new contract on the price of gas. The old contract expired on Jan. 1.

It could take up to 36 hours for the first shipment to cross the Ukraine, officials said.

Gazprom supplies a quarter of all natural gas consumed by EU countries and 80 per cent of that gas is piped through Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko signed a deal late Monday, brokered by heads of Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz.

Under the new agreement, Ukraine receives gas at a 20 per cent discount from the average European price, quoted by Russia as $450 US per 1,000 cubic metres.

Gazprom's chief Alexei Miller told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that Ukraine would pay $360 per 1,000 cubic metres of Russian gas in the first quarter. Last year's price was $179.50.

Russia will not have to pay higher transit prices to use Ukraine's pipelines this year.

Putin said Ukraine would have to pay full price for Russian gas in 2010 and Russia would pay market prices for transit.

With files from the Associated Press