Moscow and Kiev in war of words over gas

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The Independent Online

Russia and Ukraine argued over gas supplies again yesterday, with each side trying to persuade their customers in the West that the other was to blame for the crisis.

The European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the crisis "unacceptable and incredible" and said the EU executive would advise European firms to sue Russian and Ukrainian energy companies unless gas supplies were restored quickly. Russia began pumping gas meant for Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday but the EU said little or none was flowing yet to countries suffering urgent energy shortages.

Russia accused Ukraine of deliberately cutting gas to Europe but Kiev said Russia had so far provided so little gas there was not enough pressure in the pipelines to pump it on.

"It is not our problem. It is the problem of the transit country and they must solve it," Vladimir Putin, Russia's Prime Minister, told the premiers of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Moldova at his residence outside Moscow. Kiev portrayed Moscow as the villain.

"It is time for the European Commission to ask Russia clearly why it is committing such acts," said Yuri Prodan, the Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister. "All legal responsibility lies with the Russian side."