MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP
Some items from RFE/RL's News Desk:
RUSSIA-UKRAINE GAS DEAL REPORTEDLY CLOSER
European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has announced substantial progress was reached in October 21 talks between representatives of Ukraine and Russia on gas supplies, but a final deal has yet to be agreed.
A summit held in Milan October 17 had produced hopes for a breakthrough, after Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and said they had reached a preliminary agreement on a gas price until March 31.
Oettinger said as part of tentative deals, Ukraine planned to purchase some 4 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia before the end of this year.
Oettinger also said Ukraine would pay $1.4 billion of its debt to Russia for gas supplies already received before the end of October and another $1.6 billion by the end of this year.
The head of Russia's delegation to the talks, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, said the price of gas for Ukraine would be $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, much lower than the $485 that Russia's state-controlled Gazprom was demanding just weeks ago.
However, the price, which was first announced by Poroshenko following his meeting with Putin on October 17, is still higher than the average of some $350 that Gazprom charges EU companies
Novak said that price would be in force from October 2014 until late March 2015 -- provided Ukraine pays in advance.
However, Novak added the EU should take responsibility for guaranteeing Ukraine pay its $5.3-billion debt for gas to Russia before the end of 2014.
Kyiv has asked the EU for an additional loan of $2.6 billion, but a spokesman stressed on October 21 that the request was not made in connection with the ongoing gas talks.
The EU has so far offered Kyiv loans totalling more than $2 billion.
Russia cut off gas deliveries tro Ukraine in mid-June, citing the $5.3-billion debt. However, Gazprom has not halted supplies transiting Ukraine en route to EU member states.
But Novak again ruled out Gazprom's agreeing to let EU states re-export its gas to Ukraine.
Oettinger announced another meeting would be held in Brussels on October 29.
Separately, the Kremlin said Putin and Poroshenko discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine among other issues during a telephone conversation October 21.
It didn't provide further details.
(Based on reporting by Reuters, TASS, and Interfax)
PROSECUTORS TARGET EKHO MOSKVY
The independent Russian radio station "Ekho Moskvy" said it has been informed of an unscheduled inspection by the prosecutor's office.
The station's deputy chief editor Sergei Buntman said on October 21, "We received a document dated from yesterday (October 20) that said the main directorate of the Emergency Situation's Ministry" had requested the prosecutor's office to conduct an inspection of the radio station.
Buntman said according to the document, the inspection would start on October 22 and last for 20 working days.
"Taking into consideration days off, that means almost a month," Buntman said, and he added that the inspection should not affect the activities of the station.
Buntman said, "Of course questions arise about why this decision is taken so suddenly."
"Echo Moskvy" posted a copy of the document the radio station received that indicated the inspection was meant to determine if the station was in compliance with fire safety laws.
(Based on reporting by "Ekho Moskvy" and Interfax)
PUTIN, POROSHENKO DISCUSS CEASEFIRE AND GAS SUPPLIES
The Kremlin said the Russian and Ukrainian presidents stressed the importance of supporting the peace process in Ukraine and observing the ceasefire the country's south-east during a phone conversation on October 21.
President Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko also discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine after a tentative agreement reached in Milan last week on the basic terms of future supplies, the statement said.
It didn't provide further details.
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.
Some progress was reportedly made toward resolving the issue of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine during last week's talks in Milan.
Poroshenko said a preliminary agreement had been reached on a price of $385 per 1,000 cubic meters until the end of March -- $100 less than Russia had originally demanded.
(Based on reporting by Reuters, TASS, and kremlin.ru)
RUSSIAN INVESTIGATORS SAY 'CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE' BEHIND TOTAL AIR CRASH
Russian investigators say the air crash that has killed the chief executive of French oil giant Total was caused “criminal negligence” by airport officials.
Christophe de Margerie and three French crew members died when his corporate jet collided with a snow-removal machine at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport late on October 20.
The Investigative Committee warned that several senior airport officials would be suspended, adding that investigators will assess the "actions and non-action" of management.
The snow plough driver has already been detained.
Investigators have said the man was drunk at the time of the accident, which his lawyer denied.
Total is one of the top foreign investors in Russia.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin "highly esteemed" Margerie's business qualities and his "consistent devotion" to developing bilateral Russia-French relations.
(Based on reporting by AFP, Interfax, and TASS)