The EU has been putting more pressure on Ukraine and Russia to resolve their gas-dispute, but there is little sign of a solution in the pipeline anytime soon. It has meant Russian gas which crosses Ukraine has fizzled out to 18 countries. The EU tried to get it flowing again by sending observers to check that Ukraine isn’t stealing gas. But so far, it has not worked.
The leaders of some of the worst hit countries – Bulgaria’s Sergei Stanishev and Slovakia’s Robert Fico – went to Moscow and Kiev. But behind the handshakes with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko, the visitors expressed frustration that the two protagonists seemed as far apart as ever. Even so, Russia and Ukraine have agreed to a meeting in Moscow on Saturday. Stanishev and Fico went to Moscow too, where Russian leaders heard that the dispute with Kiev over an unpaid bill and the price of this year’s gas should not hostages of other countries. After turning off the taps on New Year’s Day, Russia started pumping gas again bound for Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday, but says Ukraine is deliberately blocking it. Ukraine says Russia is sending so little, the pressure is too low to pump it on. In places like Moldova, gas reserves are running low. Throughout central Europe, householders are shivering and factories have had to shut. For those left without heating, the bickering seems to be the stuff of nightmares with little sign of an early thaw in relations.