The European Union has called on political leaders in Russia and Ukraine to restore gas supplies to EU member states.

Russia has confirmed that gas shipments to European consumers have stopped. It says this is Ukraine's fault because it had shut down the last pipeline carrying gas from Russia.

The 27-nation bloc had regarded the issue as a bilateral commercial dispute.

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But the EU presidency on Wednesday urged Russia and Ukraine to resolve their dispute by Thursday and suggested that future relations were at stake.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency, said that "both countries have a vested interest" in problem-free relations with their Western neighbors.