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Europe has become a hostage to Ukraine's heedless behavior, a first
Europe has become a hostage to Ukraine's heedless behavior, a first deputy CEO of Russian energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday.

"We have faced an undisguised theft of Russian gas by Ukraine," Alexander Medvedev told journalists, adding that an independent international company, SGS, registered the theft.

"We are forced to use such terms as 'gas theft' as these facts have been registered by an independent international company. Despite Ukraine preventing specialists from accessing its gas measuring stations, measurements of incoming and outgoing gas [volumes] have led us to this conclusion," he said.

Medvedev said Ukraine must observe the Russian gas transit contract valid for three more years. "There are no grounds to revise the transit contract," he said.

"There is only one way out - the lacking contracts on gas deliveries should be signed and Ukraine should ensure transit," he said.

"We are still ready to continue talks day and night. But even in this crisis situation, we don't see the Ukrainian side's desire to return to the negotiating table," Medvedev said.

Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after last-ditch talks with Kiev on a new deal for 2009 and debt repayments failed late on New Year's Eve.

Around 80% of Russia's gas exports to Europe pass through Ukraine.

Miller has accused Naftogaz of tapping Russian gas, which Ukraine denied, blaming Russia for creating the shortfall by deliberately cutting deliveries to Europe.

Alexander Medvedev also said he assesses the situation with gas supplies to Europe as a very serious one.

"We have completely exhausted the potential of alternative deliveries... but today we are unable to compensate for the gas stolen by Ukraine... This causes the most concern," he told reporters in Berlin.

With Ukraine's gas debt to Russia from 2008 unresolved and no contract agreed for 2009 deliveries, the issue of Russian gas flowing through Ukrainian pipes to European consumers further west has become contentious.

Medvedev said Ukraine had shut down three of four pipelines that export Russian gas to Europe.

Deliveries of Russian gas via Ukraine to Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and Bosnia have been halted. Supplies to Italy, Poland, France, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia were severely disrupted.

Gazprom said it would pump more gas through alternative routes via Belarus and Turkey to ensure European supplies were not affected.

The dispute between Moscow and Kiev has reawakened concerns in Europe about the reliability of Russia as a supplier.

The 2006 gas row between the two former Soviet states resulted in a brief cutoff in supplies to Ukraine. When shortages were reported in some Eastern European countries, Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning off Europe-bound gas.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Tuesday that talks with European partners on Russian gas deliveries to Europe will be held in Brussels January 8.

Miller told Putin that Ukraine steals about 15% of Russian gas. "The volume of Russian gas being stolen by Ukraine is increasing every hour. According to the latest data, Ukraine steals about 15% of gas fed to the Russia-Ukraine border," he said.


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