EU invites Russia, Ukraine to fresh gas talks
The EU said it has invited the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers to Brussels on Monday for talks on resolving a bitter gas supply dispute which threatens deliveries to Europe.
Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom threatened on Tuesday to cut off deliveries to Ukraine, diverting deliveries instead to eastern parts of the country controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.
"I can confirm (European Commission vice-president for energy union Maros Sefcovic) has sent letters to the Russian and Ukraine energy ministers inviting them to Brussels on Monday. We are now awaiting final confirmation," Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen said.
Itkonen told reporters the Commission 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.
The latest row has placed that accord in jeopardy. While Kiev blames Russia, the rebels say Ukrainian state gas giant Naftogaz had struck first, halting its supplies to the areas they controlled.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Kiev's move smacked of "genocide" and targeted four million people living in the area.
Asked about Putin's genocide comment, the Commission refused to be drawn.
"The safest way to mediate is to keep a distance from value judgements," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
Commission spokeswoman Itkoken said Monday's talks were designed to "hear both sides' views, to try to mediate" and get the winter package back on track.
Russia supplies about a third of the European Union's gas, with half that amount transiting via Ukraine pipelines. Many newer EU members in eastern Europe still rely heavily if not completely on Russia for their energy.
In earlier disputes in 2006 and 2009, Gazprom shut off the taps, causing huge disruption to European gas supplies at the height of winter.
© 2015 AFP