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EU says commissioner to attend Russia, Ukraine gas talks in Kiev

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger will hold another round of talks with Russia and Ukraine in Kiev Saturday to try and resolve a bitter dispute over gas supplies.

“The aim is to continue the discussions on issues related to gas supplies from Russia to Ukraine with the objective of finding a solution that secures stable deliveries,” a European Commission statement said.

The last round of EU-brokered gas talks broke up Wednesday without a deal, prompting concerns that Russian giant Gazprom would make good on its Monday deadline to cut supplies unless Kiev paid outstanding bills and accepted a new payment framework.

Ukraine Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan told AFP earlier Saturday that Russia had “given its preliminary agreement to attend” the talks.

“We are ready to search for a compromise but putting pressure on us is of no use,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov told RIA Novosti.

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday he had told officials to begin implementing plans to cut energy use on the expectation Gazprom would carry out its threat Monday.

The head of Ukraine’s state energy firm has said Kiev was ready to make a $1.95-billion (1.45-billion-euro) payment demanded by Moscow by Monday morning if Russia agreed to cut its price to $326 from $485.50 for 1,000 cubic metres of gas.

Russia insisted at the failed talks Wednesday that $385 was its final price.

The European Union depends on Russian gas for about 30 percent of its gas, half of which transits via Ukraine pipelines.

In similar disputes in 2006 and 2009, Russia cut of supplies causing havoc in winter.

Saturday’s talks come as the security situation deteriorated sharply in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels shot down a government plane with the loss of 49 lives.