Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says he is hopeful of a compromise with Russia over gas supplies within the next few days.
The Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom turned off the taps to Ukraine this morning after a contract dispute. There had been fears Europe may be affected, as was the case in 2006 when Gazprom cut supplies to Ukraine. A Gazprom spokesman explained that while supplies to Ukraine have been cut, supplies to Europe have been increased. Gazprom said the cut-off does not apply to shipments to Europe but there could be a knock-on effect if it causes a drop in pressure in the transit pipelines or if Kiev halts flows to Europe as a bargaining chip – something it has said it will not do. About a fifth of Europe’s gas comes from Russia, through Ukrainian pipelines. Supplies of gas in Ukraine are sufficient for several months. Some residents were still anxious about deliveries, while others were confident the problem would soon be resolved. One man said: “I think they will reach an agreement. It is more likely prices will be higher.” A woman said: “Of course we are concerned. Tomorrow we may have to live without heat, without anything.” The US has urged Russia to consider the humanitarian implications of disrupting gas supplies in the winter. The EU is also urging both sides to continue talks.