Russia confirms will attend gas talks with EU, Ukraine
RUSSIA has confirmed that it will attend talks with the European Union and Ukraine on Monday aimed at resolving a bitter gas supply dispute which threatens deliveries to Europe.
Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom threatened this week to cut deliveries to Ukraine over a dispute related to Moscow’s move to start direct supplies to eastern parts of the country controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.
The European Union receives about a third of its gas from Russia, with half that amount transiting via Ukraine pipelines.
“I have confirmed my participation and we plan to discuss the range of issues involving our relations in Brussels,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying by Ria Novosti news agency on Friday.
He also said Russia may even cut supplies to Ukraine before Monday’s meeting if no payment was received.
“According to information from Gazprom, the Ukrainian side has transferred $15 million, but that amount has not yet reached Gazprom,” he said.
Ukraine had already confirmed it would attend the talks with a delegation headed by Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn.
Tensions rose last week when Gazprom began supplying gas directly to separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine and demanded Kiev pay for it.
Rebel leaders in east Ukraine said that Kiev had suddenly ceased gas supplies and asked for access to gas from Russia, which is accused of backing the separatists with troops, weapons and other types of assistance.
Naftogaz, Ukraine’s national gas company, confirmed the cut, saying it was due to pipeline damage caused by fighting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Kiev’s move to cut gas supply smacked of “genocide” and targeted four million people living in the area.
European Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen said Thursday that it expected both sides to continue to respect a “winter package” deal mediated by the EU late last year which guaranteed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine through to March.
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