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The Guardian - January 14, 2009 by Luke Harding Russia accused the US last night of "orchestrating" Europe's gas crisis as gas deliveries to the EU were halted hours after they resumed, amid venomous exchanges of accusations between Moscow and Kiev. Gazprom, Russia's gas company, said its pumping stations began sending gas through Ukraine early yesterday, following a monitoring deal signed in Brussels on Monday. But hours later, Gazprom said Ukraine was blocking the flow of gas - adding that the US was to blame. The EU said "little or no gas" flowed yesterday to countries in central and southern Europe suffering acute energy shortages. Gazprom said Ukraine had stopped shipments and prevented Russian observers from entering its gas stations. Ukraine said Russia had "provocatively" sent the gas the wrong way, and compared Moscow's actions to the Nazi siege of Leningrad. "We believed yesterday that the door for Russian gas was open but again it's been blocked by the Ukrainians," said Gazprom's deputy chairman, Alexander Medvedev. "It looks like ... they are dancing to the music which is being orchestrated not in Kiev but outside the country." The state department dismissed the accusation. Medvedev later explained he was referring to Ukraine's strategic partnership deal with the US, which was signed in Washington last month by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. That pact enhances co-operation on defence, energy and trade, including the delivery of gas. The agreement will also see the US set up a diplomatic mission in the Crimean regional capital of Simferopol - a move likely to infuriate the Kremlin. The ethnic Russian region has been at the centre of claims that Moscow is trying to fuel separatist sentiments in order to undermine Ukraine's pro-western leadership. Last night Medvedev said it was "pretty strange" the charter envisaged co-operation between Ukraine and the US on gas since Ukraine "didn't produce gas". "Ukraine has discredited itself. It's like a madman with a razorblade in its hands," he said. But Ukraine blamed Russia. Its state energy firm, Naftogaz, said there had not been enough co-ordination over the routes chosen for the gas and the volumes shipped. "This seriously violates the established practice of reliable functioning of the gas transit system," Naftogaz said. Ukrainian officials said Gazprom had "deliberately" sent the gas by a route that would have meant switching off gas to Ukrainian consumers in the east of the country. Instead of supplying gas via the traditional route, through Ukraine's Belgorod and Rostov region, it had been sent on a bypass route which would paralyse supplies to the towns of Donetsk and Luhansk. "This is just provocation against Ukraine," said Bohdan Sokolovsky, Ukraine's commissioner for energy security. Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, went further. His office compared Russia's actions to those of the Nazis during the wartime siege of Leningrad. Andrei Kislinksy, deputy head of Ukraine's presidential secretariat, said the gas war "increasingly resembles the blockade of Leningrad after the failure of the blitzkrieg" and added that its primary purpose seemed to be about making Yushchenko step down from office.

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