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EU declares relief with Ukrainian gas agreement

Solution ensures normal operations through March.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BRUSSELS, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Political responsibility and economic sense have prevailed with the signing of a gas deal between Russia and Ukraine, the European Commission president said.

Negotiators in Brussels landed a deal late Thursday following several rounds of failed talks aimed at resolving a so-called gas war brewing at least since June.

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"This is an important step for our shared energy security on the European continent," outgoing European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement. "There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter."

European countries get about 20 percent of their gas from Russia, though most of that runs through a Soviet-era pipeline network in Ukraine. Gas rows between Russia and Ukraine left European consumers without gas in 2006 and 2009.

The Ukrainian government under the terms of the deal agrees to pay its $3.1 billion debt in installments. In return, Russian delivers gas under a pre-payment mechanism that extends through March.

The interim contract frees Ukraine from a take-or-pay clause, which would've obligated it to pay for set volumes of natural gas regardless of usage. Gas is also delivered to Ukraine at a discounted rate.

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Russian energy company Gazprom said gas supplies to Ukraine would resume by the weekend.

"This breakthrough will not only make sure that Ukraine will have sufficient heating in the dead of the winter," European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said in a statement. "It is also a contribution to the de-escalation between Russia and Ukraine."

Western governments have enacted sanctions against Russia's energy sector in response to the Kremlin's stance on Ukraine.

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