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Romania, Poland and Hungary all reported shortfalls
Romania, Poland and Hungary all reported shortfalls of up to 40% in Russian gas delivered through Ukraine as the dispute between Kiev and Russian energy giant Gazprom intensified on Saturday.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday after last-ditch talks on Kiev's outstanding $2-billion gas debt and a new contract for 2009 failed late on New Year's Eve. To compensate for the cut off Gazprom said it had increased shipments to European consumers.

Ioan Rusu, the director of Romania's state-run Transgaz, was cited by Reuters as saying "Gas inflows from import fell by 30-40%...This is because of Ukraine's dispute with Russia." Russia supplies Romania with around 65% of its gas.

Poland and Hungary have also reported slight shortfalls.

Poland's gas monopoly PGNiG and pipeline operator Gaz-System said on Friday "a decrease of 6%" had been registered in gas deliveries via Ukraine, but added that the shortfall was being made up by supplies through Belarus.

Gazprom has accused Ukraine of stealing Russian gas destined for European consumers, a claim that Ukraine's Naftogaz has denied.

A Gazprom deputy CEO told the BBC during an interview that the Russian gas monopoly was prepared to meet the Ukrainian side to resolve the dispute. "We are ready to enter negotiations day and night," Alexander Medvedev said.

Speaking in English Medvedev said that Ukraine was unreliable as a transit country, "that's why we believe it's necessary to develop, as soon as possible, alternative transit routes."

Russia is currently constructing two alternative pipelines, Nord Stream, a joint project with Germany to pump gas from Siberia to Europe under the Baltic Sea and the South Stream pipe which will pump gas to the Balkans and onto Europe.

The EU urged on Thursday both sides to engage in further talks. "All existing commitments to supply and transit must be honored," the EU president, the Czech Republic and the European Commission said in a joint statement.

Frequent gas disputes between Moscow and Kiev have raised concerns in Europe about the reliability of Russia as a supplier. Ukraine transits about 80% of Russian gas, a major source of revenue for Moscow, bound for the EU. Europe buys a quarter of its gas needs from Gazprom.

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