Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said here on Friday that the European Union (EU) is trying to help Ukraine and Russia to solve their gas dispute.
"I am trying to help Ukraine and Russia seek the solution of the gas dispute, along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso," said Topolanek, who arrived in Kiev late Friday for talks with Ukraine's leadership on the gas issue.
He stressed the need to find a way to resolve the Ukrainian-Russian gas conflict. "We (the European Union) can not be arbiters," he noted.
Speaking after a meeting with the Czech prime minister, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called on Russia to resume gas supply to Europe as soon as possible.
Yushchenko said Ukraine did not take a single cubic meter of the gas that Russia transports to Europe. "Ukraine is honoring its obligations as a transiting country," he said.
Yushchenko said that Ukraine will allow Russian experts to inspect key transit sites on Ukrainian territory for shipment of gas from Russia to Europe.
"We are taking upon ourselves the obligation to allow representatives of the Russian side at entry and exit points" for the gas piped from Russia to Europe through Ukraine, Yushchenko told reporters.
Yushchenko said he hoped Russia would make a similar allowance for Ukrainian experts on Russian territory.
After talks with Topolanek, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko vowed to sign an agreement on independent monitors to verify flows of Russia gas through its territory to Europe "as soon as possible."
"We will sign such a protocol as soon as possible," she said.
According to local media reports, the first eight observers tasked with monitoring flows of Russian gas have already arrived in Kiev and started their work.
The Czech prime minister is expected to fly on to Moscow on Saturday for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
The resumption of delivery of Russian natural gas to Europe through pipelines on Ukraine's territory has been delayed by the wrangle over the composition of an independent monitoring commission and terms of its access to installations.
Russia has said it is prepared to resume delivering gas immediately, provided Ukraine first signs the deal allowing international monitoring of the gas flowing through its pipelines.
Russia cut off gas supply to Ukraine on New Year's Day after the two countries failed to come to terms on Ukraine's payment of arrears and prices for 2009.
A week later, Russia stopped pumping all gas to Europe through Ukraine, saying it had been forced to do so because Ukraine closed down all gas transit routes to Europe.
The EU gets a quarter of its gas supplies from Russia, 80 percent of which pass through Ukraine. So far, supplies to 18 countries have been disrupted by the dispute.