RUSSIA and Ukraine have agreed to continue sending gas through Ukraine to Europe for five years.

The decision announced yesterday removes worries that Europe could be denied a substantial amount of the Russian gas it relies on for heating and industry.

Russia ships about 40% of its European gas deliveries through pipelines that cross Ukraine.

The current contract is to expire at the end of the year and delays in concluding a new one caused concern in Europe. Over the past decade, growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea, have applied pressure to the pipeline agreements.

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Officials said they plan to have the new contract signed before New Year’s Day.

Ukrainian energy minister Oleksiy Orzhel told reporters the agreement foresees shipments of 65 billion cubic metres through Ukraine in 2020 and annual shipments of 40bn cubic meters after that.

Those amounts are smaller than what Russia has sent through Ukraine in previous years. Russia has been working intensively to build new delivery networks that bypass Ukraine amid the ongoing regional disputes. Those networks include the Nord Stream 2 undersea pipeline, currently under construction between Russia and Germany.

The Ukraine-Russia deal also includes payment by Russia of £2.2bn to settle an arbitration claim arising from previous transit disputes, and waives new claims, said Alexei Miller, head of Russia’s state natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.