EU Ministers Rush to Moscow for Gas Talks

APPrime Minister Vladimir Putin welcoming Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico, left, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, second left, and Moldova's Prime Minister Zinaida Greceani, right, at Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Wednesday.
Europe remained without most of its Russian gas for an eighth day Wednesday, prompting the European Commission to raise the prospect of legal action from European energy companies.

Russia and Ukraine, which transits 80 percent of Gazprom's exports meant for the European Union, continued feuding for a second day about how to move the gas westward.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said on an urgent visit to Moscow that he brought proposals that could lift the disagreements. Stanishev made the statement after he and his counterparts from Slovakia and Moldova, Robert Fico and Zinaida Greceanii, met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for talks about resuming gas deliveries to their countries, which have been some of the hardest hit by the disruptions.

Putin supported some of the proposals and offered more ideas for restarting the transit, Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said. Russian government officials would study the proposals with the visiting prime ministerial trio at a meeting at Gazprom later Wednesday, he said.

President Dmitry Medvedev also scheduled meetings with the European prime ministers on Wednesday.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the commission would recommend that European companies seek redress in court should the dispute last longer. He made the threats during debates on the subject in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, calling the standoff "most unacceptable and incredible."

Moscow and Kiev promised to resume deliveries under an EU-brokered deal signed Monday that deployed international monitors to gas metering stations to make sure none of the gas would disappear in transit. Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukrainy, however, have been haggling since Tuesday about the technicalities of the supplies.

"Russia and Ukraine are showing they are incapable of delivering on their commitments to some member states," Barroso said. "If the agreement is not honored, it means Russia and Ukraine can no longer be considered reliable partners for the European Union in terms of energy supply."

Gazprom continued to insist on Wednesday that its gas flow through its Sudzha metering station on the Ukrainian border, despite Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's reiteration of Kiev's stance that it was impossible. Gazprom's gas would collide in the pipeline with the gas that Naftogaz is pumping in the opposite direction to supply three eastern regions of Ukraine, she said.

Naftogaz offered to reroute Gazprom's EU-bound exports through two other Russian metering stations, Pisarevka and Valuiki, Naftogaz spokesman Valentin Zemlyansky said by telephone from Kiev.
Gazprom refused the offer, saying in a statement that those stations were primarily designed to send gas for Ukraine's domestic consumption.

If sent through the stations, Zemlyansky countered, "the gas wouldn't disappear but re-emerge in the west of Ukraine."