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    Russia forced to end gas supplies to Ukraine

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    Russian energy giant Gazprom halted on Wednesday gas supplies to Ukraine for transit to Europe.

    MOSCOW, January 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russian energy giant Gazprom halted on Wednesday gas supplies to Ukraine for transit to Europe.

    A final 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.

    Earlier in the day, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned his Czech counterpart that Gazprom would be forced to cut gas supplies to Ukraine unless Kiev cancels its decision to close all four pipelines carrying Russian gas to the EU.

    "Unless the Ukrainian authorities reconsider their decision soon, Gazprom will be forced to stop deliveries of gas via Ukraine, which become senseless with European consumers not receiving it anyway," Putin told Mirek Topolanek.

    The proposal to stop gas supplies to Ukraine was made by the head of Russian energy giant Gazprom earlier on Wednesday.

    "I approve your proposal [to stop gas supplies to Ukraine], but it should be done as openly as we can, and in the presence of international monitors," Putin told Alexei Miller at a meeting in St. Petersburg to discuss Russia's gas dispute with Ukraine.

    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. Supplies to Italy, Poland, France and Slovenia are seriously disrupted.

    Miller reported the conclusion of an independent international company and Gazrpom monitors confirming that Kiev had stopped Russian gas supplies reaching European consumers via Ukraine.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who held a telephone conversation with Putin earlier on Wednesday, proposed sending international gas monitors to both Ukraine and Russia.

    "We know that the European gas market is facing a tough situation. We discussed the problem with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel," Putin told Gerhard Schroeder, Germany's ex-chancellor, who now chairs the Nord Stream board.

    "She [Merkel] is also concerned over the situation, and voiced a good proposal to use international monitors, European monitors, in Russia and Ukraine," Putin said.

    In a telephone conversation with the president of the European Commission, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko pledged on Wednesday immediate access to the country for EU gas monitors.

    Ukraine has allowed no access for independent monitors to its gas metering stations since January 1.

    "Tymoshenko and Jose Manuel Barroso agreed to provide immediate access to EU technical experts for permanent monitoring of natural gas supplied by Russia to meet the European Union's demand," the Ukrainian government's press service said in a statement.

    Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing more than 86 million cubic meters of gas since the start of the year.

    Ukraine's national energy company Naftogaz said it had transited to Europe over 1.43 billion cubic meters of gas out of some 1.49 bcm supplied by Russia in the first six days of January.

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