Vladimir Putin 'Agrees To Resume Pumping Gas Through Ukraine From Russia'

MOSCOW, Russia -- The Czech EU presidency announced late on Thursday that an agreement over the monitors had been reached with Mr Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, in a surprising turnaround just hours after talks in Brussels had broken down.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

However, it remains unclear whether all parties - including Ukraine and the national gas companies involved - have agreed to the deal.

Mr Putin and Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Prime Minister, agreed during a telephone conversation "on the conditions of deployment of the monitoring commission at all locations that are relevant for the flow of gas," a statement from the EU presidency said, adding: "This deployment should lead to the Russian supplies of gas to EU member states being restored."

About 10 monitors, who will be drawn from the European gas industry and the European Commission, are due on the ground on Friday.

Mr Putin has said monitors are needed in order to check that Ukraine is not siphoning off gas as it passes through on its way to mainland Europe.

Earlier this week, Gazprom, Russia's state monopoly gas supplier, shut off pipelines passing through Ukraine after a dispute over payments. The EU depends on Russia for about a quarter of its gas supply, 80 per cent of which is pumped through Ukraine.

Some European countries are receiving no gas whatsoever, while others have suffered a sharp cut in supplies, amid freezing temperatures around the continent.

Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, had earlier said that gas shipments would resume once monitors began working. However, Martin Riman, the Czech Industry Minister, said that Gazprom had rejected a proposal for the monitors to be independent.

Andris Piebalgs, the EU Energy Commissioner, also said that Moscow had refused to sign a deal to restore supplies because it wanted its own observers stationed in Ukraine.

Gazprom disputed that this had been the hurdle to a deal, blaming Ukraine of having "ruined the signing of such a document".

Mr Putin also earlier complained that Russia was not to blame for the crisis. He summoned western reporters to his residence and said: "Of course this is creating problems for us. But, forgive me for saying so, but I have not seen an objective evaluation of the situation.

"Foreign media, Western media are painting a completely unobjective picture of 'Russia Shuts Gas to Europe'."

Source: Telegraph UK