Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News European Bureau Chief
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Worthy News)-- Eastern Europe was anxiously awaiting the resumption of natural gas deliveries from Russia Monday, January 12, after Russian energy giant Gazprom said Ukraine signed a fresh copy of a gas transit monitoring agreement.
The announcement came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered his government not to fulfill an agreement already signed with the European Union and Ukraine, saying Kyiv added at the last moment a declaration to the accord, contradicting Moscow's position.
Ukraine reportedly wrote in the statement that it did not steal natural gas and had no outstanding gas debts.
The Kremlin has said however that Ukraine has been siphoning-off natural gas destined for European customers to make up for its own shortfalls after Russia closed the tap to its neighbor on New Year's Day because of alleged unpaid bills of over two billion dollars.
Monday's signing should allow the resumption of gas supplies to much of Europe, where schools and factories have closed in several parts of especially Eastern European countries. Hungary on Saturday, January 10, shut down public run institutions for one day because of gas shortages.
Russian gas is piped to Europe across Ukrainian territory. Ukraine wants Russia to pay it more in transit fees, while Russia wants Ukraine to pay a higher price for the Russian gas it buys in the future, about 450 dollars dollars per one-thousand cubic meters, twice the amount offered by Kyiv.
With the accord now signed, Eastern European and Balkan officials were expecting Russian natural gas soon in a region where at least a dozen people have frozen to death and hundreds of thousands of people are without heating.
Serbia was among those very hard hit by the dispute, its Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said earlier. "We are for 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. Serbia is in a very difficult situation," he said.