MILAN (AFX) - Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the Ukraine has siphoned off 70 mln cubic metres of gas per day of Gazprom supplies sent to the west, Forbes reported.

Berlusconi said that cold weather in Russia has also hit Russian exports, but this factor is not sufficient to explain the shortfalls in gas received in Italy by Eni SpA in the last weeks.

'In addition to the cold that hit Russia, the energy crisis in Italy has been due to the fact that the Ukraine has taken way in an independent and arbitrary manner 70 mln cubic metres of gas per day without having a contract with Gazprom,' he said in a Canale Italia TV interview to be aired tonight.

'The Ukraine...took away first 35 mln cubic metres, and then when the Russian federation increased distribution by 35 mln, the other 35 mln,' he said.

The cold weather, which saw Russian temperatures fall to minus 60 degrees, has been responsible for 8 pct of the shortfall, he said.

Today, Eni said its shortfalls in Russian gas is expected to fall to 9.5 pct, from the normal 74 mln cubic metres, against yesterday's 10.8 shortfall, after last week being up to 16 pct.

Berlusconi said he has spoken many times with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the issue, adding there has been 'maximum cooperation'.


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