From The New York Times:
MOSCOW — A European Union-brokered deal between Russia and Ukraine to restore the flow of heating fuel to the Continent seemed to be falling apart Sunday evening, less than a day after it had been signed, with Moscow objecting to conditions that Ukraine attached to the agreement after Russia had already signed it.
In what appeared to be a first step toward resolving a dispute that has cut off about one-fifth of the natural gas used in Europe, at the peak of the winter heating season, the governments of Russia and Ukraine and the European Union agreed to establish independent monitors of pipelines that carry Russian gas to the west.
The protocol was a precondition set by Russian energy officials to turn on the gas flow again. Russia shut off the valves on Tuesday after an extended dispute with Ukraine over pricing and accusations of stealing gas from the export pipelines.
In a flurry of shuttle diplomacy over the weekend, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, secured the signature of Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, in Moscow and then flew to Kiev, where Ukraine’s prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, also signed the agreement.
Yet by late Sunday, the off-again-on-again deal appeared to be off again. Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he would not honor the pact.
At issue was a handwritten phrase that Ms. Tymoshenko wrote beside her signature early Sunday morning, after the document had already been signed by Mr. Putin. In English, she wrote, “with declaration attached.”
Ms. Tymoshenko’s declaration, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, said that Ukraine had not been guilty of stealing gas from the export pipelines, a statement essentially asking Moscow to backpedal on the allegation that had underpinned its justification for halting shipments to Europe.
Mr. Putin, in a phone call on Sunday to [European Commission President José Manuel] Barroso, said Russia would not accept conditions added after he had signed the protocol, Interfax reported.
Seeking to sooth Russian concerns, Mr. Topolanek called Mr. Putin to say that Ms. Tymoshenko’s declaration was not binding. Later Sunday, Mr. Barroso said Ms. Tymoshenko had agreed to address Russian concerns over her statement with the goal of restoring gas flows to Europe, Reuters reported.
A spokesman for Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, said the company’s chief executive, Aleksei B. Miller, would fly to Brussels on Monday to continue negotiations.
(Is Gazprom Russian for Enron?)
Even once an agreement is in place, it may be days before relief comes to European countries down the line from Ukraine, especially Poland and Bulgaria, which have suffered greatly without heating fuel in the bitter winter weather.
If Russia immediately turned on the flow, it would take about three days to repressurize the European natural gas pipeline system and restore full service, experts said. And the underlying price dispute has still not been resolved.
Of course, there was lots of smack talk back and forth, but it looks like they’ve kissed and made up to some extent. Here’s the latest from Thaindian News:
Brussels/Moscow/Kiev, Jan 12 (DPA) The European Union (EU) expects gas supplies from Russia to resume Tuesday morning, officials in Brussels said Monday following the signing of an accord on a gas monitoring mission in Russia and Ukraine.
Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev said that assuming there are no further “obstacles”, deliveries should resume “at 8 a.m. European time”.
The EU-brokered deal on the deployment of international monitors in Russia and Ukraine had edged on the brink of failure over the weekend, when Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko attached a declaration next to her signature on the initial agreement, drawing protest from Russia.
Gazprom and Barroso’s office both confirmed Monday that Timoshenko had since removed the declaration.
But experts note that a series of divisive issues still need to be addressed before the dispute can be fully resolved.
These concern payments for gas needed to raise pressure in Ukraine’s pipeline system after the embargo ends, Ukraine’s possible obligation to Russia of $600 million in fines, Russia’s possible obligation to Ukraine for gas supplied to Bulgaria and Moldova, and how long the EU observer mission will operate in Ukraine.
The EU-brokered monitoring deal is also silent on the underlying cause of the Russo-Ukrainian gas crisis: the absence of a contract between the two countries for natural gas deliveries and onward transportation to Europe.
Russia has pledged to renew the flow of gas to Europe once it is in possession of a finalised copy of the accord and the mission of gas experts is in place at compressor stations along Ukraine’s border – a key control necessary to stem alleged Ukrainian theft of gas meant for Europe, it says.