EU to hold Russia, Ukraine gas talks on Friday in Warsaw
The European Union said talks with Russia and Ukraine over its gas supplies to the country and onward to Europe will take place Friday in the Polish capital Warsaw.
"This is a constructive step," European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrendkilde Hansen said, announcing the talks just one day after the EU hit another 15 Russian and Ukrainian figures with sanctions for their role in the crisis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has threatened to cut gas shipments to Ukraine, had earlier proposed April 28 for talks in Moscow.
As the crisis deepened, Putin on April 10 sent a letter to 18 EU countries, many heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies, urging immediate negotiations.
He also warned that Moscow could cut gas supplies unless they helped Ukraine pay an outstanding $2.2-billion bill, threatening a repeat of 2009 when supplies to Europe which transit through Ukraine were badly disrupted.
Russia accounts for about a quarter of all EU gas supplies while Ukraine's pipelines carry about half of those imports each year, according to EU data.
In response to the crisis, EU leaders have stressed the need to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian supplies so as to reduce Moscow's leverage, especially in eastern Europe.
On Monday in a first step, Slovakia and Ukraine signed a deal to give Kiev access to European gas supplies.
"This is an important first step to diversify Ukraine's sources of gas supply and contributes to greater energy security in Eastern Europe and the EU as a whole," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the signing in Bratislava.
"Signing today's deal is just a first step," Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan added.
© 2014 AFP