Hopes of a deal have been raised and then dashed several times over the past week. But it seems this time the gas really may start to flow again.
Diplomats in Brussels say all sides in the drawn-out Russia-Ukraine gas dispute have now signed an agreement aimed at resolving the crisis. EU monitors are now checking the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, amid claims that some was being siphoned off. Kiev denied the allegation. The crisis began when Russia cut off supplies over what it said were unpaid bills. Numerous countries in Europe were affected, forcing Brussels to act as mediator. The European Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs, said: “We have a clear agreement with the Russian side, that tomorrow at 8 o’clock, Brussels time, the gas will start to flow in the direction of the European Union. It will take some time before it reaches the final consumers, but it could be a rather short time: 24 to 30 hours.” News of a deal will come as a relief in many European countries, where the gas cuts were accompanied by freezing conditions. A fifth of the European Union’s gas comes via Ukraine, a former Soviet nation whose relations with Moscow are often difficult.