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Russia voids a deal to monitor natural gas supplies to a freezing Europe

Jordanka Dimitrichkova, 86, who lives alone at her home in a suburb of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, shows the woodpile she stores inside her home as she tries to stay warm on Sunday.

Associated Press

Jordanka Dimitrichkova, 86, who lives alone at her home in a suburb of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, shows the woodpile she stores inside her home as she tries to stay warm on Sunday.

SUDZHA GAS METERING STATION, Russia — Teams of EU monitors deployed Sunday at natural gas transit sites along Ukraine's vast pipeline network, but still no gas flowed to a freezing Europe.

Russia refused to restart gas supplies that have been stalled since Wednesday, saying the deal for the monitors was made void by Ukraine, which signed the document but then issued what it called a "declaration" to accompany it.

The European Commission insisted the declaration could not change the agreement, but Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the document was void unless Ukraine withdrew the declaration. He denounced the Ukrainian move as a "mockery of a common sense and a violation of previously reached agreements."

Russia has demanded monitors to track the movement of gas across Ukraine before it will restart supplies to other European countries. Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine on Jan. 1 amid a price dispute and later stopped supplying countries beyond Ukraine because it claimed Kiev was siphoning off the gas.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a phone conversation that Russia considers any supplements to the deal unacceptable. He added that the Ukrainian declaration defies the pact and refers to commercial issues that aren't part of it.

Bohdan Sokolovsky, an energy adviser to the Ukrainian president, insisted the declaration was only a statement explaining the Ukrainian position. He accused Moscow of exerting political and economic pressure on Ukraine.

"Russia has turned the gas war into a gas circus where bears have already forgotten that they can be tamed," Sokolovsky said. "The Kremlin is consciously creating conflict."

Even before the gas cutoff, Russia and Ukraine had been at odds over Ukraine's efforts to join NATO and its support for the former Soviet republic of Georgia in its war with Russia in August. Last week, U.S. officials had warned Russia not to use its energy resources as a weapon against Europe.

Russia supplies about one-quarter of the EU's natural gas, 80 percent of it shipped through Ukraine, and the disruption has come as the continent is gripped by subfreezing temperatures in which at least 11 people have frozen to death.

Russia voids a deal to monitor natural gas supplies to a freezing Europe 01/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 9:59am]
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