World Bulletin/News Desk
Russia is ready for talks on resuming gas supplies to Ukraine, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday, warning of disruption to flows to Europe this winter if a row over pricing and debts is not resolved.
Novak said Moscow was ready to reduce its prices in an effort to secure a deal, but the proposed sum remained well above what Kiev has said it is willing to pay.
The dispute comes amid escalating tensions between the two countries, with Ukraine accusing Russia of sending weapons and men to help a separatist rebellion in the east of the country -- an accusation Moscow rejects.
Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last year to cut the gas price for Ukraine to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres after then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said he would snub the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.
But Yanukovich was toppled by mass protests in February, and Moscow hiked the price to $485. This was rejected by Kiev, and Russia cut off the gas flow in June after the two sides failed to resolve their commercial dispute.
Novak said after meeting European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger that Russia was ready to apply a retroactive discount, bringing the price per 1,000 cubic metres for April-June to $385. Ukraine has said it wants to return to the old price, while signalling it might agree to pay just above $300.
"We hear again about the price of $385 ... due to a cancellation of fees. It, as the Russian side (would) think, means that the price of $485 is fair and market. We think that this price is discriminatory," Prodan said in a statement.
Oettinger's spokeswoman said a repayment plan should be developed over the next weeks for all the gas that has not been paid for as part of an interim solution.
Gazprom has signalled it may resume gas supplies once Ukraine pays off 2013 gas debts, which it put at $1.45 billion. The Russian gas exporter says Ukraine owes it a total of more than $5 billion in unpaid bills.
"We will agree the date for a trilateral meeting at the beginning of next week," he said. Oettinger told Reuters he expected discussions to resume by mid-September.
However, Novak said Kiev might start siphoning off some of this gas in the coming winter if it fails to build its reserves. He said Ukraine had stockpiled up to 16 billion cubic metres, but needed to pump as much as 10 billion more into storage.
Prodan described the charges on siphoning as "groundless".
Various meetings, including talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier this week, have so far failed to bear any tangible fruits over the gas issue, and time is running short before winter sets in.
Oettinger said gas must not be used as a weapon in the Ukraine-Russia crisis, adding that all sides needed to work out an interim solution, given that international arbitration would not be able to resolve the dispute before the middle of 2015.
"We always said through the crisis that we don't see the gas sector as a tool for sanctions, measures and escalations. That is also true today," Oettinger said.Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Ağustos 2014, 22:04