Wed, Jan 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Russia boosts gas exports to EU, holds talks with Ukraine

AGENCIES , MOSCOW, KIEV

Russia's state gas company Gazprom yesterday boosted natural gas exports to Europe to redress sudden shortfalls after it cut supplies to Ukraine, and offered some form of compensation for disruptions.

Although Ukraine continued to siphon off gas from the European exports, Gazprom would make good losses, a spokesman said in Moscow.

But the company was not prepared to cover the "theft" of gas indefinitely, he added.

A special meeting of the EU's natural gas coordination group is to take place in Brussels today to discuss supplies amid an increasingly bitter war of words between Russia and Ukraine.

Despite the rhetoric, the two sides were to hold talks yesterday on resolving the gas cutoff, a spokesman for Gazprom said.

Spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that Ukrainian officials were on their way to Moscow for the talks at Gazprom's headquarters. He did not specify who would be taking part, but said the talks would be "at a sufficiently high level."

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov called on the EU yesterday to put pressure on Ukraine to ensure that full supplies of Russian gas transit to European countries.

"We ask that influence be exerted on the Ukrainian side to bring it back to lawfulness and guarantee it completely fulfil international commitments of the unimpeded transit of natural gas through Ukrainian territory to European Union countries," he wrote in a letter quoted by Russian news agencies.

He said Russia was ready "to fulfil strictly all existing agreements and contracts with our EU partners in the interests of strengthening the energy security of the continent."

The letter was sent to Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who took over as EU president on Sunday, state-owned RIA-Novosti and ITAR-TASS news agencies said.

Gazprom cut deliveries to Ukraine on Sunday in a dispute over price. Since it sends about 80 percent of its European export volume through Ukraine, supplies were also disrupted to a number of other countries.

Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Serbia-Montenegro, Romania, Italy and France all reported decreases of up to 30 percent in the amount of Russian gas received since Jan. 1.

The company said it would add 3.96 million cubic meters an hour of gas shipments to Europe to compensate for the shortages.

Austria's oil and gas group OMV director Wolfgang Ruttersdorfer confirmed that the vital energy supply was flowing again, saying late on Monday that Russia had started delivering a "full supply" of gas to countries in Europe.

Poland's PGNiG fuels distribution company said yesterday that pressure in Poland's natural gas pipelines had also returned to normal levels. Overall Poland saw a relatively small 8 percent decline in Russian deliveries from Ukraine during the crisis.

Gazprom will also increase supplies to Europe through the Yamal-Europe pipeline that crosses Belarus and through the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey, spokesman Kupriyanov said.

The showdown between Moscow and Kiev has sent a shiver across the EU, which gets 25 percent of its gas supplies from Russia.

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