Moscow Russia and Ukraine pledged to restore natural gas supplies to Europe after signing deals Monday to end a bitter dispute that led to a chilling two-week cutoff of shipments.
Europeans, who normally get about one-fifth of their gas from Russia via Ukrainian pipelines, anxiously awaited for the fuel to start flowing.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko signed the documents at Putin’s government headquarters on the Moscow river. They resulted from an outline agreement they had clinched in late-night talks Sunday as heads of Russia’s state-run natural gas monopoly Gazprom and the Ukraine’s Naftogaz.
Putin said Gazprom had been instructed to resume shipments bound for Europe that had been halted since Jan. 7 as Moscow and Kiev argued over 2009 gas prices and allegations that Ukraine was stealing gas destined for Europe.
Tymoshenko said the gas would be pumped toward Europe as soon as it enters the Ukrainian pipes. But neither official said exactly when the gas would begin flowing.
Officials said the restored gas shipments could take up to 36 hours to cross Ukraine, which is the size of France, and reach European customers.
Europe gets about 20 percent of its total natural gas needs from Russia via Ukrainian pipelines, and the cutoff hit hard at some countries, such as Bulgaria and Slovakia.