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Ukraine is ready to guarantee Russian gas transit to Europe
Ukraine is ready to guarantee Russian gas transit to Europe in full, the head of the Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz said Thursday at a meeting with EU officials in Brussels over the Russia-Ukraine gas row.

Oleh Dubyna said that at early Thursday's talks in Moscow with Russian energy giant Gazprom, he asked the Gazprom management to resume Russian gas supplies in full.

"The current situation and existing misunderstandings emerged as a result of economic issues rather than political difficulties. They should be resolved with account for the sides' economic interests," Oleh Dubyna said.

Russia says Ukraine's guarantees of unhindered gas transit are one of the conditions for resumption of gas supplies to Ukrainian borders.

Dubyna also said on Thursday that Ukraine is ready to allow EU experts into its territory for them to control Russian gas transit, including when the gas enters Ukraine and when it leaves the country.

"We are ready to receive everyone if the Russian side agrees to that," he told journalists.

Asked whether an agreement between Russia and Ukraine will be reached, Dubyna said he "would not like some of the Europeans to be frozen this winter."

Ukraine has not allowed independent observers to its gas measuring stations since January 1.

Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyanskiy said Thursday Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Dubyna could continue gas talks in Moscow later this week. "They would probably go to Moscow after Brussels," he said.

Previous talks between Russia and Ukraine ended on New Year's Eve with no agreement on how to settle Kiev's gas debts or on a contract for 2009 deliveries.

Gazprom halted on Wednesday gas supplies to Ukraine for transit to Europe. According to the company, the latest check established that Ukraine was not carrying any gas to Europe despite Russia's move to continue gas supplies to Ukraine through the Sudzha station.

Kiev closed on Wednesday the fourth, final gas pipeline pumping Russian gas to Europe. The latest closure added Austria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia to the growing list of countries receiving no Russian gas.

The three other pipelines were closed on Tuesday, ending deliveries via Ukraine to Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and Bosnia and seriously disrupting supplies to Italy, Poland, France and Slovenia.

Gazprom earlier accused Ukraine of stealing more than 86 million cubic meters of gas since the start of the year, but Kiev denied the accusations saying that Russia was trying to discredit Ukraine as a reliable gas transit partner.

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.


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