Russia's natural gas supplies bound for a freezing Europe were halted again yesterday only a few hours after a truce had been announced in its "gas war" with Ukraine.
The Gazprom energy giant accused Ukraine of blocking gas bound for Europe, while Ukraine blamed "unacceptable" technical conditions by Russia.
The breakdown again infuriated the European Union as hundreds of thousands of people shivered in the depth of winter and factories and schools remained closed in many countries.
European Commission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso telephoned Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to express the "EU's disappointment" at the new hurdles. "Ukraine has blocked all our actions in respect of renewal of the transit of natural gas through Ukraine, which is unbelievable," said Gazprom's deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev.
"In these circumstances we again don't have the physical possibility to transit gas to European customers and the whole responsibility for this lies on the Ukrainian side," he said.
Ukraine's Naftogaz said Russia had failed to co-ordinate the gas flows with Ukrainian technicians and that the transit network was now being used to supply Ukrainian consumers.
Naftogaz head Oleg Dubina said opening up the Ukrainian network to let gas to Europe would mean cutting supplies to four Ukrainian regions.
A European Commission spokeswoman in Brussels said "little or no gas" was reaching Europe through Ukraine.
Ukrainian Energy Minister Yury Prodan said he hoped for EU help in negotiating with Russia on the pricing dispute at the heart of the crisis between the neighbours.
"The European community is interested and will participate in our negotiations with Russia," said Prodan, and added. "We hope we will not be left to face Russia alone."