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Russian gas flows to Europe
PISAREVKA, Russia (AP) - Russian natural gas is again flowing through Ukrainian pipelines into Europe, but the resolution to the two nations’ energy war looks more like a cease-fire than a permanent peace.

The two-week gas cutoff left many in Europe bitter and eager to sever an energy lifeline that leads to the gas fields of Siberia. And there’s no real guarantee against renewed hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, two former Soviet neighbors with sharply contrasting views of the future.

With the ink barely dried on the agreement, the chief of Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom, Alexei Miller, suggested Ukraine might not be trusted to pay the higher prices it has promised to in 2009. And Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s office has already criticized the deal crafted by his political rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Gazprom began pumping gas into Ukraine on Tuesday morning from the Sudzha metering station on the border. Several hours later, gas began pouring across Ukraine’s western border into Slovakia and deliveries also were reported in Hungary, Bulgaria and Moldova - some of the nations hardest hit in the dispute. Further west, supplies also returned to Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia.

The 27-nation European Union gets about a quarter of its gas from Russia.

"It was utterly unacceptable that European gas consumers were held hostage to this dispute between Russia and Ukraine," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Tuesday. "We must not allow ourselves to be placed in this position in future."

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader says his country plans to renew its contract with Gazprom in 201pòZecause Russian gas supplies about 40 percent of his country’s needs.

"But we are aiming to find ways to diversify our supply resources," he added.

Russia halted the supplies on Jan. 7 amid a dispute with Ukraine over 2009 gas prices, alleging that Ukraine was stealing gas destined for Europe. Ukraine disagreed, saying Russia was not sending enough "technical gas" to pump the rest toward Europe.

Many in the Balkans and eastern Europe won’t quickly forget the first weeks of January 2009.

Slovakia had to ration gas, favoring homes and hospitals, and forcing about 1,000 companies to halt or limit production. Impoverished Moldova switched to heating oil for power plants, and its people stockpiled bread and built wood fires to stay warm.

Serbia and Bosnia, at odds for years, came together as Serbia shared some of its own precious gas supplies to help Bosnia cope.

No such warmth is likely between Russia and Ukraine, divided by Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO and the EU.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the 10-year gas supply and transit deals signed with Ukraine on Monday should bring an end to their annual gas price wars. But given the bad blood between their governments, as well as Ukraine’s political infighting and the economic troubles both face amid the global credit crunch, that is far from assured.

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