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Europeans Worry Gas Shutoff Will Leave Them Cold

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Western countries are calling on Russia to resolve its dispute with Ukraine over natural-gas prices. Moscow's gas shutoff is now in its second day, and concern is mounting that a long standoff with Ukraine might threaten deliveries to Western Europe. NPR's Gregory Feifer reports from Moscow.

GREGORY FEIFER: Europe depends on Russia for a quarter of its gas, most of which crosses Ukraine. But European countries have done almost nothing to fulfill promises to diversify their supplies since Moscow last cut off gas deliveries to Kiev three years ago. Back then, supplies to Europe were seriously affected. This time, both Kiev and Moscow have been at pains to say they guarantee deliveries to Europe will remain unaffected. But European countries, which have reserves to last only several days, are watching nervously. The European Union has called for negotiations to resume, but yesterday, Russia's state monopoly Gazprom toughened its demands.

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M: (Russian spoken).

FEIFER: Gazprom's CEO, Alexei Miller, said the company was more than doubling the rate it charged Ukraine for gas last year. Washington yesterday criticized Russia, saying talks should continue without a gas shutoff. Gazprom's cutoff is renewing widespread perceptions abroad that Russia is using its role as a major energy supplier to punish pro-Western Ukraine, which has infuriated Moscow by wanting to join NATO. Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.