The EU Presidency is still trying to finalise details of a monitoring deal which would allow Russia to resume gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine.
The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said both Ukraine and Russia had pledged to allow experts to monitor the pipelines, and indeed EU observers have already arrived. But Ukraine’s leaders are furious, accusing Russia of trying to humiliate them with lies. President Viktor Yushchenko said Russia had doubled the price of gas insisting Ukraine must now pay European prices. The presence of monitoring missions along the transit routes for Russian gas will reassure Moscow that it is not being stolen by Kiev. South-eastern Europe has been hardest hit by Moscow’s decision to turn off the taps rather than let Ukraine have access to supplies. In Serbia, the international political row is being played out in people’s living rooms. This woman said: “For three days we had no heating at all. No hot water either. In minus 15. The politicians really have to think about this in advance.” Heat is now returning to the houses in Serbia thanks to an alternative gas supply from Hungary. Austria has also said it can help. In Bulgaria, where the country is almost totally reliant on Russian gas the government is rationing its reserves.