Russia made good on its threat to cut off all natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday - but the two uneasy neighbors took great pains to make sure their contract dispute would not leave Europe short of gas just as winter set in.
Overshadowing their confrontation was the specter of 2006, when a similar dispute interrupted gas shipments to many European countries for three days. But both Russia and Ukraine now have strong interests in proving to Europe they can be reliable energy partners, and they assured other European nations they would not be affected.
The cutoff was being closely watched in the European Union, which depends on Russia for about a quarter of its gas - with some 80 percent of that delivered through pipelines controlled by Ukraine.
"I believe we are close to accepting a compromise solution," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said in a statement Thursday. He said he expected talks to resume in the next day or two and to be concluded by Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7.
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