Ukraine agrees to gas monitoring deal
Ukraine has signed a deal that will allow independent monitors to track natural gas supplies from Russia to Europe, without attaching any additional conditions to the agreement, gas company officials reported Monday.
The new deal was signed on Monday morning during talks in Kiev, officials with the Russian gas company said. On Sunday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had rejected a modified deal to resume the flow of natural gas to European countries from pipelines that cross Ukraine.
Medvedev declared the European Union-brokered deal invalid because Ukraine had attached a handwritten document with additional conditions.
Ukraine's state gas company, Naftogaz, has confirmed the agreement was signed.
Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky said the conditions that Russia had rejected were written into the document before it was signed, but that the agreement is not legally binding.
Gazprom officials said Monday's agreement should allow resumption of gas shipments to Europe.
"As soon as they [the monitors] are at the control points, and we are sure that they can control the transit of our gas, Gazprom will pump gas to Ukraine's gas transit system to be shipped to European customers," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a cabinet meeting Monday, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
Russia and Ukraine sent delegations to Brussels on Monday for talks on how to restore Russian gas supplies to Europe.
The European Union presidency confirmed Monday that Russia will restart gas supplies to Europe on Tuesday morning.
Russia cut off gas deliveries through Ukraine on Jan. 1 in a dispute over pricing and transit fees. The move left tens of thousands of homes and businesses, mostly in eastern Europe, without heat during freezing winter weather.
Moscow alleges that Ukraine illegally siphoned off supplies meant for other European countries between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7 — a charge Kiev denies.
Teams of EU monitors were deployed at five major gas transit stations on Ukraine's border with European countries Monday and were ready to track the flow of gas, according to Naftogaz.
Dispute over pricing, transit fees
Another group was deployed at a unit in Russia near the Ukrainian border and more teams were waiting for permission to work at other sites on the Russian side of the border.
The monitoring agreement will allow European, Russian and Ukrainian experts to measure the flow of Russian gas through Ukrainian pipelines.
Gazprom and Ukrainian officials have said it will take three days to rebuild adequate pipeline pressure for gas to reach the West.
Gazprom supplies one-quarter of all natural gas consumed by EU countries, and 80 per cent of that gas is piped through Ukraine.
The hardest hit of the 18 countries affected by the gas cut-off include Bulgaria, Moldova and Bosnia.
With files from the Associated Press