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Ukraine, Russia Talks End, With 'Certain Progress' Reported

  • RFE/RL

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin (left), as French President Francois Hollande (center) looks on during talks in Milan on October 17.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin (left), as French President Francois Hollande (center) looks on during talks in Milan on October 17.

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents have ended a bilateral meeting in Milan, with somewhat contradictory versions of the talks' outcome.

The 45-minute talks were held behind closed doors on the sidelines of a Europe-Asia summit on October 17, after Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin met twice in the space of 10 hours in the company of various European Union leaders.

After his first face-to-face meeting with Putin since late August, Poroshenko said no practical results on resolving a dispute over gas supplies from Russia had been achieved.

“We do have certain progress, but some details are yet to be discussed," Poroshenko said.

Russia raised the price it charges Kyiv for natural gas after Ukraine's pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February, then halted gas supplies to Ukraine in June when Kyiv failed to pay the higher price.

Poroshenko expressed hope that the sides will find a solution to the dispute before October 21, when a new round of talks with the EU is planned.

Meanwhile, Putin said the sides agreed on the terms of gas supplies "at least for the winter period."

Putin said Russia is ready to reduce Ukraine’s gas debt by $1 billion to $4.5 billion by retroactively offering a lower gas price.

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He also expressed hope that Ukraine’s Western partners would help the country overcome its cash deficit.

On October 16 in Belgrade, Putin warned that Europe faces "major transit risks" to gas supplies from Russia this winter if Ukraine siphons gas from transit pipelines.

Russia is the EU's biggest external gas supplier, providing about one-third of the gas consumed there, and previous price disputes between Moscow and Kyiv have led to supply cuts that have chilled Europeans in wintertime.

The Russian president also said the agreements reached in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, last month on settling the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine are not being implemented fully by either side in the conflict.

He said that Moscow was ready to further mediate the peace process but insisted that it was no party to the conflict.

Putin also said Moscow agreed a deal with France, Germany, and Italy to use reconnaissance drones to monitor fighting in Ukraine.

A first round of talks in Milan was attended by Putin, Poroshenko, Merkel, and Hollande, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and outgoing EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 3,660 combatants and civilians since April and driven Moscow's ties with the West to post-Cold War lows, prompting punitive sanctions against Moscow and a Russian ban on many foods from the EU, its biggest trading partner for years.

Russia blames the conflict on the EU, the United States, and the pro-Western government that gained power in Ukraine after Yanukovych’s ouster.

Kyiv, NATO, and Western governments say Russia has supported the rebels with troops, weaponry, and propaganda after illegally annexing the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March.

Western leaders say Moscow must see to it that a cease-fire and steps toward peace agreed on September 5 in Minsk are implemented.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, TASS, Interfax, and AFP
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