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Russia, EU fail to reach deal on preventing a cutoff of gas

RUSSIA and the European Union failed to agree yesterday on measures to prevent another cutoff of gas supplies to Europe.

The talks "increased our mutual trust, which is very much needed and very important," Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the EU presidency, said after the summit in Khabarovsk, Russia.

The Russian president sparred with the EU leaders over energy - a sensitive issue because Europe relies on Russia for a quarter of its natural gas imports.

Medvedev insisted that only Ukraine was to blame for the two-week cutoff that left millions in Europe without heat in January. He warned further disruptions are possible if Ukraine cannot pay. Russia turned off the taps to Ukraine during a dispute over pricing and payments, prompting angry EU question about Moscow's reliability as a supplier.

Russia will offer no assurances that supplies would not be disrupted again.

"What for? There are no problems on our side - everything is in order here," Medvedev said.

He suggested the EU can only ensure reliable supplies by lending money to Ukraine to help it pay for gas.

"We have doubts about Ukraine's ability to pay," Medvedev said. "We are ready to help Ukraine, but we would also like the European Union and the countries interested in the security of energy cooperation to take on a considerable part of this job."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's energy adviser, Oleksandr Hudyma, said Ukraine is not in debt and dismissed the warning.

"There is no threat and there is no debt to Russia," Hudyma said.

Medvedev reiterated Russia's opposition to the EU-backed Energy Charter, saying Moscow has "no intention" of signing on to the energy security pact. It pressed for an alternative.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU would consider Russia's proposals, but stressed they could only augment the Energy Charter, not replace it.

Barroso also made it clear that the EU believes it is up to Russia, not just Ukraine, to ensure reliable gas supplies to Europe.


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