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Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Russia 'to resume gas supplies'

Gas pumping station at Sudzhe, Russia
It could take up to 48 hours for gas supplies to return to normal

Russia will resume pumping gas to third countries via Ukraine from Tuesday morning, following the completion of a monitoring deal, the EU says.

The Czech presidency of the EU made the announcement following the signing of a deal by Russia, Ukraine and the EU.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Europe have been left without gas since Russia turned off the taps over a contractual dispute with Ukraine.

Despite the deal, it may be some time before supplies return to normal.

Analysts say that in theory, supplies could return to normal within 24 hours but a more likely time frame is 36 to 48 hours.

Under the gas transit deal, international pipeline monitors will verify the flow of Russian gas through Ukraine.

Deadline for conditions

The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse says that the agreement may be greeted with scepticism in some of the hardest-hit countries, after the same deal fell through last week.

Moscow says it expects all its conditions to be met by Tuesday morning.

Central to those conditions is the presence of EU and Russian monitors at pumping stations on Ukraine's eastern and western borders.

It feels like the siege again in Sarajevo... The whole thing makes me feel angry.
Leana Lugic
BBC website reader, Bosnia

While a number of EU teams are already in position, others are not, and Russian monitors have still to deploy to stations in western Ukraine, our correspondent says.

Moscow turned off the taps last week after it accused Kiev of stealing gas meant for other European customers.

Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive of Russian gas giant Gazprom, told a news conference in Brussels on Monday: "If there are no obstacles... gas supplies will be restarted at 8 o'clock [0700 GMT].

"[We] will all hope it will happen tomorrow."

Earlier, Ukraine had dropped provisos it wanted to add to the agreement.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had emphasised that Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine would flow only when monitors were in place and a transit deal had been signed by all parties.

Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine on New Year's Day, saying it would pump only enough for customers further down the pipeline.

But then Moscow accused Ukraine of siphoning off gas intended for third countries and it restricted supplies even further.

Ukraine denied the claim, but the flow of Russian gas ceased completely on 7 January, leaving many European countries with major shortages.

The EU called the supply cut "completely unacceptable", and entered into shuttle diplomacy between Kiev and Moscow.

A deal was struck at the end of last week, but fell through when Moscow alleged that Ukraine was trying to deny its debt to Russia for gas supplies.

Gas pipelines affected Gas network in Europe



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