There is a new hiccup threatening a deal to solve Europe’s mid-winter energy crisis. Ukraine, Russia and the European Union had agreed to get Russian supplies flowing again, by deploying monitors to oversee deliveries along Ukrainian pipelines. Supplies were cut last week over unpaid bills, and then Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning off gas meant for Europe. In the end a compromise was reached.
“We signed so there would be no more complaints that Ukraine is presenting an obstacle to Russia’s gas supplies to Europe,” said Ukrainian Prime Minister Iulia Timoshenko. The deal applies only to Russian gas transitting Ukraine en route to European clients. Moscow and Kiev have still not reached agreement on supplies to Ukraine itself, and they remain cut. The deal was brokered by the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country is the current EU President. Monitors plan to oversee gas flow in Ukraine, but it could take at least 36 hours for the flow to reach full capacity. However, Russian gas giant Gazprom says it has not received Ukraine’s official agreement, so the gas taps remain turned off. Europe gets roughly a quarter of its gas from Russia, 80 percent of which passes through the Ukrainian pipelines. Bulgaria was worst hit by the crisis. Russia supplies all its gas, and many factories were forced to close through lack of heating.