Russia delays Ukraine gas deadline to June 16
Russia's gas giant Gazprom said Wednesday it was giving Ukraine an extra five days to start paying for gas ahead of time or risk a cut in its supply as EU-mediated talks dragged on in Brussels.
"The Russian side has taken a step in favour of pursuing negotiations which have been going on quite intensely recently and has decided that the switch to the pre-payment system will be postponed until Monday," chief executive Alexei Miller said in televised comments following a meeting with EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
Oettinger, the broker for crunch gas talks between Ukraine and Russia, said late Tuesday that an overall agreement to avert a gas supply cut-off could take around ten days to be reached.
Ukraine, Russia and the EU are set to resume trilateral talks Wednesday after marathon negotiations between Moscow's Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak and his Kiev counterpart Yuriy Prodan broke up early on Tuesday.
A Kremlin statement released overnight said Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation that he has ordered the Russian delegation to pursue negotiations from a "constructive position" in order to reach "a mutually acceptable agreement".
Gazprom had earlier postponed the deadline several times since early June after Kiev made an initial payment of $786 million to cover outstanding debts.
Moscow hiked the amount that Ukraine must pay for its gas to $500 (370 euros) per 1,000 cubic metres, the highest price of any of Gazprom's clients in Europe, after the ouster in February of Ukraine's Kremlin-backed president.
Russian gas transiting through Ukraine amounts to around 15 percent of gas consumed by the European Union.
© 2014 AFP