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Putin says European gas supplies not dependent on Ukraine

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MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin assured European consumers Monday that gas supplies to Europe were not dependent on Russia's relations with its neighbor Ukraine.

After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said that Russia's agreements with Ukraine did not affect deliveries beyond Ukraine to European buyers.

"We have separated these issues and signed two documents - the first on supplies to Ukraine and the second on transit to Europe for five years," Putin said. "Today transit to Europe is not connected with our talks on [natural] gas supplies to Ukraine. This is important for European consumers."

Russia and Ukraine eventually came to a temporary agreement over gas supplies early this month, after Russia had turned off the taps to its neighbor for three days following a breakdown in talks over a gas price deal for 2006.

The move caused concerns in Europe, which receives much of its gas from pipelines that cross Ukraine. Some European countries experienced a brief drop in supplies as a result of the shut-off.

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