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EU says Russia, Ukraine gas talks to resume

EU-brokered talks between Ukraine and Russia to resolve a bitter gas dispute will resume on Tuesday at 1900 GMT, the European Commission said, amid signs the worst East-West stand-off since the Cold War is easing.

Another round of negotiations between EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak and Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan broke up early on Tuesday without an accord, leaving the two ministers to confer with their governments on a resumption.

The decision to resume talks in Brussels comes on the eve of a Russian deadline for Ukraine to cover a debt of $4.5 billion (3.3 billion euros) or have its shipments end on Wednesday.

At talks earlier this month, all sides agreed that as long as they continued, there would be no Russian gas cut-off.

Ukraine has refused to pay the gas bill in protest at Russia’s decision to nearly double the price in the wake of the February ouster of Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych after months of pro-EU protests.

About 15 percent of Europe’s gas from Russia transits through Ukraine — a dependence that EU nations have been trying to limit ever since Moscow turned the taps off in similar disputes in 2006 and 2009.

Analysts expect the two sides to agree to a new price of around $350 (260 euros) per thousand cubic metres of gas — about halfway between Russia’s old rate and the one set after Yanukovych’s replacement by a pro-Western government in Kiev.