The United States is set to begin delivering coal to Ukraine for the first time in a deal Washington framed as a move toward reducing Kyiv's reliance on Russian energy.
Under a deal signed earlier this month between the Ukrainian state-owned energy company Centrenergo and the U.S. firm Xcoal Energy & Resources, some 700,000 metric tons will be shipped to Ukraine by the end of 2017.
"The first shipment of 85,000 [metric tons] is expected in early September," Centrenergo head Oleh Kozemko said at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on July 31, adding that the deliveries should help Ukraine through the winter.
George Kent, the embassy's charge d'affaires, said the deal demonstrates "intensified cooperation" to reduce Kyiv's dependence on Moscow since Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and proceeded to back armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Kent said U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed the possibility of U.S. coal deliveries to Ukraine during their June 20 meeting at the White House.
Ukraine has been struggling to produce coal since the conflict erupted in April 2014 because Russia-backed separatist forces control much of its coal-rich region.
Poroshenko's government in March suspended all cargo traffic with areas held by the separatists and has been seeking to secure sufficient fuel reserves needed to keep power plants operating.
"The United States can offer Ukraine an alternative, and today we are pleased to announce that we will. U.S. coal will be a secure and reliable energy source for Centrenergo and its electricity customers," U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a July 31 statement.