Russia to resume gas supplies to Europe

Russia said it would resume gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine at 7am GMT on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after a Moscow-Kiev contract row cut flows to European countries in mid-winter.

The order to start pumping gas again followed the signing of a 10-year gas contract between Moscow and Kiev and late-night talks between Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Russia’s Gazprom gas export monopoly.

Officials have said it would take 36 hours or more after the restart for the pipeline system to become operational again and for gas to reach Europe, parts of which have had to ration supplies to households and businesses because of the dispute.

“From [7am] GMT on January 20, Gazprom and [Ukrainian state energy company] Naftogaz will start to bring the system into normal operation for supply and transit,” Gazprom spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov told Reuters.

The European Union, which tried with mounting frustration over the past two weeks to broker a deal, said it would not consider the crisis over until its monitors verified that gas had reached the bloc.

“For the EU, the decisive moment will come when renewed supplies are registered at its borders,” Martin Riman, Industry Minister for the Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said on Monday.

Russia will also resume pumping gas to Ukraine itself, cut off on New Year’s Day and surviving on dwindling stockpiles.

Even once supplies resume, the effects are likely to linger. Russia’s standing as an energy supplier is under new scrutiny and Europe is exasperated that its gas flows were blocked by two neighbours deeply divided over Kiev’s ambition to join Nato.

Russia provides about a quarter of Europe’s gas requirements and pumps 80% of this via Ukraine. A contract row three years ago also caused supply problems, though that time the dispute was resolved after a few days with minimum disruption.—Reuters


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