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Ukraine Denies Stealing Russian Gas

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko takes a dip in the icy-cold waters of the Dnieper River, 19 January (epa) 23 January 2006 -- Ukraine has denied it is stealing Russian natural gas from a pipeline network meant to deliver supplies to customers in other countries.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov admitted that Ukraine's gas consumption has surged since 22 January, amid sub-zero temperatures. But Yekhanurov claimed Gazprom sanctioned the temporary increase.

"Ukraine is meeting its obligations regarding Russian gas transit across Ukraine. I am grateful to Gazprom and the Russian government for their understanding of Ukraine's difficult situation now and for allowing us to increase our daily [gas] consumption limits stipulated in [agreements with Russia]," he said on 23 January.

Earlier today, Gazprom's Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Medvedev accused Ukraine of withholding some natural gas meant for other European countries.

European gas importers are scrambling to find alternative sources as sharp cuts in Russian supplies entered a second week.

European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson today said the shortage of Russian gas has "major strategic implications" for Europe.

(Reuters, AP, ITAR-TASS, Interfax)

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