Gas supplies across Ukrainian territory stopped completely at 7:44 a.m. this morning. Ukraine claimed Gazprom had stopped delivering gas, while Russia accused Ukraine of shutting down its last pipeline carrying Russian gas to Western Europe.
This latest development marked a speedy escalation of the crisis since yesterday (6 January), when Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia stopped receiving gas completely but Central and West European countries merely reported substantial drops in supplies (EurActiv 06/01/09).
EU spokespeople yesterday seemed unable to point a finger at those responsible for the disruptions, preferring to call upon the two countries to seek a solution to the "unacceptable situation".
In an unprecedented move, the European Parliament announced that Russian and Ukrainian representatives would meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the dispute, along with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Igor Didenko, first deputy chair of Nagtohaz, a Ukrainian gas company. High officials and parliamentarians from Moscow and Kiev will also take part in the discussions.
Press articles and blogs abound with conspiracy theories to explain the reasons for the gas crisis. Some observers believe that Russia wants to undermine Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and give an advantage to his rival Yulia Timoshenko, who is believed to be close to the Kremlin. Some expect Timoshenko to turn up in Moscow next week, sign a deal with the Kremlin, and return home to Kiev triumphant.