Moscow, Kiev hint at new deal on gas

Moscow, Kiev hint at new deal on gas

KIEV - Reuters
Moscow, Kiev hint at new deal on gas

A worker checks wires in front a gas pipeline in the Black Sea resort town of Anapa. Russia and Ukraine could sign a new gas supply deal next week. AFP photo

Russia and Ukraine might be close to signing a new gas supply deal next week, ending a long-term stand-off that has repeatedly threatened Europe’s energy security, officials from both sides indicated Dec. 12.

Ukraine, a large buyer of Russian gas and a major transit nation for Russia’s exports by pipeline to Western Europe, says Moscow is charging far too much for the fuel under a 10-year contract signed by the previous Ukrainian government in 2009.

Moscow is seeking significant political and economic concessions from Ukraine in exchange for reviewing the gas deal, such as joining a Russia-led trade bloc, which would mean Kiev giving up its strategic goal of European integration. Clashes between Kiev and Moscow that led to interruptions in the Western flow of gas via Ukraine seriously disrupted European supplies in 2006 and 2009.

Commenting on rumors that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich would visit Moscow on Dec. 18 to sign a new gas deal, Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, said the trip could indeed take place if the deal is ready by that time.

On the Ukrainian side, Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper quoted an unnamed central bank source who also said he expected a new deal with Russia soon, probably before a fresh round of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in late January.