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Ukraine Partially Pays Gas Bill, New Round Of Talks Set For Next Week

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger (left) reaches out to shake hands with Gazprom Chief Executive Aleksei Miller (second from right) as Gazprom representative Sergey Kupriyanov (center) looks on after EU-Ukraine-Russia energy negotiations at the EU commission representation in Berlin on May 30.
European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Ukraine has paid part of its debt for gas to Russia and announced there would be another round of talks between representatives of the EU, Russia and Ukraine on June 2.

At a press conference after a May 30 tripartite meeting in Berlin, Oettinger said the transfer of the money would provide the basis for a continuation of the talks on June 2.

Oettinger characterized the talks as a "step forward" and added he hoped a breakthrough could be reached during the talks on June 2.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan, who followed Oettinger at the press conference, said Ukraine's state gas company Naftohaz had transferred $786 million to the account of Gazprom.

Prodan said that money covers Ukraine's bill for Russian gas for the months of February and March of this year.

Russia was demanding Ukraine pay off bills dating back to last year and wanted $2 billion of that money by May 30.

Gazprom says that, by June 7, Ukraine will owe some $5.2 billion and has demanded the bill be paid in full and that Ukraine pay in advance for future gas supplies.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said at the Berlin press conference that he was told Ukraine had transferred the payment for February and March but since May 30 was a Friday, Russian authorities would not be able to confirm the money was in Gazprom's bank account until June 2.

Aside from the issue of Ukraine's gas debt, the three parties were supposed to discuss the price Ukraine would pay for Russian gas supplies.

Under a deal reached in December between Russian President Vladimir Putin and then President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine was given a discount and could pay $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

After Yanukovych was ousted by pro-European protests in late February, Russia rescinded that deal and announced it would charge $485 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, about $100 more than Russia charges its European customers.

Ukraine has insisted on the price agreed to between Putin and Yanukovych and said if that price were restored the country could quickly pay off its gas debt to Russia.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on May 30 that his country would never agree to pay the higher price.

Before the May 30 meeting, Prodan said Ukraine was filing a lawsuit with the International Arbitration Court in Stockholm to force Russia to lower its gas price.

The EU is concerned a dispute between Ukraine and Russia could affect Russian gas supplies to Europe that transit Ukrainian territory.
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