Ukraine-Russia gas talks to resume in Brussels
Russia and Ukraine will resume European Union-brokered gas talks in Brussels on Friday aimed at restoring Russian gas supplies to its neighbour this winter, Moscow and the EU said Thursday.
Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told journalists that “the talks are tomorrow. We will be finally agreeing the text of the protocol (agreement),” quoted by TASS state news agency.
Novak told journalists in Moscow that Russia “in principle hopes” the deal will be signed Friday.
“Since we are going there with our proposals, we hope that it won’t be for nothing,” he said.
The European Commission said in a statement that talks would start at 5 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday between Ukraine and Russia’s energy ministers and representatives of Russian gas giant Gazprom and Ukraine’s gas operator Naftogaz.
The talks have “the firm objective to finalise the so called winter package for the winter period 2015/16,” the European Commission said, referring to the heating season when demand for gas will peak in Ukraine and Europe.
Russia and Ukraine have disputed gas prices since a pro-Western popular uprising ousted ex-president Viktor Yanukovych and took control of Kiev last year.
Russian gas giant Gazprom first interrupted gas supplies last year before switching them back on to ensure Ukraine survived the winter.
In July it once again halted all natural gas supplies to Ukraine after the breakdown of talks between Moscow and Kiev.
Recent weeks have seen fresh attempts to resolve the conflict with the approach of winter, when Ukraine will have higher demand for gas, as well as Europe.
Ukraine transports 15 percent of gas consumed by Europe and its own reserves are running low more than two months after Gazprom turned off the tap.
Novak said Thursday that Russia had drawn up a draft offer to Ukraine giving a discount of around $20 per thousand cubic metres for the fourth quarter, from a full price provisionally set at $252.
He said that Naftogaz had contacted Gazprom to ask for a discount, but did not specify what size of discount.
“Gas supplies can start as soon as the money arrives — that could happen even earlier than October 1,” Novak said.
Novak and the European Commission’s vice-president for energy Maros Sefcovic met in Vienna on September 11 to discuss ways of ending the gas dispute.
Russian officials said the EU was offering to provide $500 million to Ukraine specifically to buy Russian gas, so that it could replenish its reserves and ensure uninterrupted gas transit.
Days later Gazprom chief Alexei Miller met the head of Ukraine’s Naftogaz gas company, Andriy Kobolev. Miller said he hoped supplies would resume from October 1.
The prospect of talks to agree another short-term winter heating deal does not “suggest a move by Russia and Ukraine toward broader reconciliation or a longer-term gas deal,” Emily Stromquist, an analyst at Eurasia Group, wrote in a note.