RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 9th, 2009

090109.jpgTODAY: EU and Russia agree on monitoring of gas deliveries, but gas has yet to resume flowing; Putin defends Russia’s position again, using Georgia as an example; US and Georgia to sign charter.

The gas row continues, with hundreds of thousands of European homes (…and zoos…) still without gas, and Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina suffering the most.  Progress has been made in that a deal has been reached through which the EU will begin monitoring gas deliveries via Ukraine, with Gazprom stipulating that the monitoring commission is ‘multi-layered‘, but this report suggests that Ukraine may not yet have agreed to the deal, and another says that there are still no assurances that the gas flow will be turned back on, quoting a senior EU diplomat as saying, ‘We have reasons to believe that there is hope that the Russians will resume gas supplies.’  Despite the preliminary agreement, by Russia’s own admission, it could still take many days before supplies resume, and NATO has implied that it will intervene to assist its allies if the situation continues.  ‘Along with the United States, the Europeans also must come up with a strategy for moderating or containing Mr. Putin’s bullying ways.’

Putin continues to insist that Russia is not to blame for the crisis, and says that Russia would agree to pay market price for gas transit if Ukraine agrees to pay market price for gas supplies.  The Prime Minister is using Georgia as a case study to prove that his country is not using the gas supply as a political weapon.  ‘I want to draw your attention that we are still delivering gas to Georgia, regardless of political problems with that country […] we are not linking political problems with the economic ones.’

The United States and Georgia are due to sign a new charter, formalizing a strategic relationship that includes provisions for deepening ties in economics, politics and security – today.  President Dmitry Medvedev has not commented on the charter, but ‘Russian news reports have carried highly critical comments on American desires to deepen ties with Ukraine and Georgia.’

PHOTO: In Sofia, Bulgaria, hampered by the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, commuters rode in an unheated tram on Thursday. The European Union said gas should flow again soon. (Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images)