Russian, Ukraine gas dispute

London, December 30:

Gazprom is to launch a charm offensive in London today in a desperate atte-mpt to avoid the latest confrontation with Ukraine over gas supplies turning into a wider commercial and political row with west.

Alexander Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Gazprom, will insist the Russian gas group has been doing all it can to avoid cutting off energy to Ukraine on January 1, something that looked increasingly likely after more talks in Moscow yesterday failed to reach agreement.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, tried to break the deadlock in an hour-long telephone talk with Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko but admitted later there was ‘no deal’ over the back payment of gas debts.

Gazprom launched a sp-ecially created website yesterday, designed to dilute criticism over row with Ukr-aine. It argues that state-owned gas group had ‘left no stone unturned’ in its efforts to try to retrieve outstanding energy payments without halting supplies.

Explaining why Medvedev would address western media directly, a London-based spokeswoman for Gazprom said, “We just want people to see what is happening and to understand that this is a commercial dispute over which Gazprom has been doing all it can to avoid cutting off gas. We are still hoping that ongoing talks with Ukraine will enable us to find a solution.”

Russian and Ukrainian energy executives continued talks in Moscow yesterday to try to clinch a last-minute deal that would allow Kiev to receive gas from the start of next year, when the old annual contract comes to an end.

Gazprom claims it cannot renew deliveries until it has been paid more than $2 billion in arrears and damages. “Our team went to Moscow. The main issue is to resolve the financial problems and the issue of future supply and gas price,” said Valentyn Zemlyansky, spokesman

for Ukraine’s state energy company, Naftogaz.

Gazprom has already warned European customers about the trouble.