Russia, Ukraine hold last-minute gas talks
Officials from Ukraine and Russia met late today in last-minute talks brokered by the European Union to resolve a dispute that could halt the flow of gas from Russia.
After popular protests toppled a pro-Moscow Ukrainian president in February, Russia raised the price it charges Ukraine for gas and has threatened to cut off supplies starting from tomorrow if Kiev does not pay its overdue bills. Moscow has also annexed Crimea from Ukraine, while armed pro-Russian separatists have tried to split off some eastern parts of the country.
Today's talks follow a tentative rapprochement last week when newly installed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russia's Vladimir Putin met in France at commemorations of the World War Two D-Day landings.
The Commission, the EU executive, announced at the weekend that Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan and the CEOs of Russian gas producer Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz would attend talks in Brussels, brokered by EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
The negotiations, which began shortly after 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) on a public holiday in much of Europe, follow four previous rounds of trilateral talks as well as bilateral conversations between the two CEOs.
Arriving for the meeting, Oettinger told reporters the CEOs had contacted him at the weekend and asked for trilateral talks to resume as soon as possible.
Separately, Ukraine said it had reached a "mutual understanding" with Moscow on parts of a plan proposed by Poroshenko for ending the conflict with the rebels in the east.