The European Union (EU) should set up a consortium to purchase from Russia the gas Ukraine says needed to resume supplies to Europe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed on Thursday.

"We are proposing that our European partners share the risks and set up an international consortium that could buy from (Russian gas monopoly) Gazprom the necessary amount of gas and immediately send it to Ukraine to secure gas transit to Europe," Putin was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying in a meeting with the head of Italian energy company ENI.

ENI chief Paolo Scaroni described Putin`s proposal as "constructive."

During a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko earlier Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered to transfer "technical gas" to Ukraine on behalf of a EU consortium to resume gas deliveries to Europe.

Also on Thursday, Gazprom said the Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz was technically able to unblock Russian gas transit to Europe but lacked permission from Kiev to do so.

Russia cut off gas supplies via Ukraine to Europe on Jan. 7, one week after it halted pumping gas to Ukraine over a pricing dispute.

Gazprom reopened its pipelines to Europe on Tuesday morning under a three-way agreement signed by the EU, Ukraine and Russia, but no gas reached Europe.

Russia accused Ukraine of blocking the gas flow and the EU also admitted that Ukraine had held up the flow to Europe, while Ukraine argued that Russia`s choice of the gas route was technically "unacceptable." A summit is to be held in Moscow on Saturday in a bid to end the current gas dispute.

As much as a quarter of natural gas consumed in Europe is imported from Russia, and 80 percent of it is shipped via Ukraine.



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