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Ukraine Must Pay For Excess Gas, Putin Says

Workers in Russia's Vologda region Vologda region weld a segment of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline (file photo) (epa) 31 January 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Ukraine must pay for using more than its agreed quota of Russian gas from an export pipeline that leads to Europe.

Addressing reporters at a Kremlin news conference, Putin said that during the recent cold spell Ukraine has siphoned off up to 70 million cubic meters of gas a day, hampering efforts by Russia's natural-gas monopoly Gazprom to normalize supplies to Europe.

Putin praised Ukraine's leadership for admitting for the first time that it had taken more gas than agreed.

He added that Ukraine's actions vindicated Russia's 2005 agreement with Germany to build a pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea to connect the two countries directly.

Putin also hailed a recent agreement with Ukraine on Russian natural gas supplies as "very positive" for bilateral relations and for the stability of the European energy system.

The agreement came after Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine at the end of last year over a pricing dispute.

(Interfax, ITAR-TASS, AP)

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