Relax, Europe, you'll be toasty this winter. Russia will resume shipping natural gas to Ukraine after Kiev pays off its first debt installment for past supplies of gas next week, officials said Friday. Alexei Miller, chief of Russia's state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant, made the statement hours after Russia, Ukraine and the European Union thrashed out a $4.6 billion deal that will guarantee Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and further on to the EU.
The deal eased fears that Europe will end up shivering this winter like it did in 2009, when a spat over Ukraine's gas bill prompted Russia to cut off energy supplies to Europe for nearly two weeks. The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine hailed the deal in a conference call Friday as an "important step toward ensuring uninterrupted gas transit to Europe," the Kremlin said. Moscow had cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June over unpaid debts, a move that followed the ouster of Ukraine's Russia-friendly leader and the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea in March. Talks dragged on for five months amid fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian insurgents and government troops. But the looming onset of winter — a fierce, freezing season in Ukraine — had given the talks increasing urgency.
-- The Associated Press