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Russia asks Ukraine gas transit monitors to work through March


MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is asking international observers to continue monitoring gas transit via Ukraine until at least the end of March, the Russian prime minister said on Friday.

"We would ask them to continue monitoring until at least the end of the first quarter of this year," Vladimir Putin told reporters after a Kremlin meeting with a European Commission delegation including President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Putin also said Ukraine had yet not allowed Russian monitors into its central monitoring point in Kiev or gas storage facilities.

Russia suspended supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after the former Soviet neighbors failed to agree on debt and prices for 2009. A week later, Gazprom cut off gas deliveries to the European Union, saying Ukraine was stealing gas intended for EU consumers, an accusation Kiev denied.

Gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine were restarted on January 20, days after Moscow and Kiev signed a 10-year agreement on gas supplies but more than a week after an EU-mediated deal on international transit monitoring failed to get gas flowing again.

Following his meeting with Putin, Barroso said new legal mechanisms were needed to prevent a recurrence of the gas dispute.

"It is important now to create conditions for this kind of crisis not to happen again. We believe energy security is a very important sphere of interest for Russia and the European Union," he said. "And this positive interdependence is more important now than ever because we are facing a very serious global financial crisis."

"We are all in the same boat. Without strong global coordination we will not be able to face the negative consequences of the global crisis," Barroso said.

Around 20 countries were affected by the cut in supplies, which the EU called "completely unacceptable." Gazprom said it lost more than $1.2 billion during the dispute.

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