KIEV, March 5 - Hours after Naftogaz officially warned Gazprom that Ukraine had begun reducing the transit of Russian gas to markets in the EU by about 16%, Russian gas giant Gazprom on Wednesday resumed natural gas supplies to Ukraine in full.
Alexei Miller, the CEO of Gazprom, and Oleh Dubyna, the head of Naftogaz, spent hours on the phone in crisis talks Wednesday working out a joint statement to ease EU concerns.
“Gazprom resumed gas supplies,” Dmytro Marunych, a spokesman at Naftogaz, said late Wednesday. “The pressure in the gas pipeline is now growing every minute.”
The development ends three days of sharp standoff between Gazprom and Naftogaz with the Russian company cutting by 50% gas supplies to Ukraine since Monday amid dispute over gas debts.
The warning by Naftogaz was announced by Gazprom on Wednesday morning, while Naftogaz had refused to comment on it. The EU said later it had never registered any supply disruptions.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, at a press conference on Wednesday, assured natural gas consumers in the EU and Ukraine that gas supplies will not be disrupted.
“I want to assure all natural gas consumers that supplies will not be disrupted neither to consumers in Ukraine nor to consumers in the EU,” Tymoshenko said hours before Gazprom and Naftogaz had announced the deal to resume supplies.
President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday praised Gazprom and Naftogaz for reaching the agreement.
“I’m not a supporter of the gas war, I’m supporter of dialog,” Yushchenko said in a statement from Aztana, the capital of Kazakhstan. “I’m sure now we have to use less emotions and should be guided by pragmatic national interests.”
Gazprom cut the supplies to Ukraine on Monday claiming the country owes $600 million for gas supplies since the beginning of the year. Naftogaz said that two gas traders, controlled by Gazprom, failed to submit an invoice.
Naftogaz, in turn, accused Gazprom of failing to pay at least $500 million for transit of its natural gas to Europe since December 2007. Gazprom said Naftogaz has never submitted an invoice.
But both companies decided to go ahead with the payments without waiting for invoices. Gazprom made the payment on Tuesday, while Naftogaz will make the payment in the near future.
Tymoshenko said the government approved decision on Wednesday that allows Naftogaz to immediately start clearing natural gas debts owed to Russia without waiting for the invoices.
“Today’s resolution allows making the payments without the contracts in order to prevent accumulation of the debts,” Tymoshenko said.
Tymoshenko said Gazprom and Naftogaz will soon begin a round of talks that would settle the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine “for many years ahead.”
“The time has come for the talks and I have confidence that the talks will be successful,” Tymoshenko said. (tl/ez)