World Bulletin/News Desk
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday he hoped Moscow and Kiev would this week settle their differences over a timetable for Ukraine to pay its natural gas debts to Russia.
Russia stopped gas flows to Ukraine in June in a standoff over the gas price with its neighbouring former Soviet republic, through which Europe receives about half of its gas imports from Russia.
After several rounds of talks brokered by the European Union, Moscow and Kiev reported progress at a meeting last week in Berlin.
Novak reiterated that Kiev must repay at least part of its $5.3 billion gas debt before Russia's state-owned gas producer, Gazprom, resumes gas supplies to Ukraine.
"It is a matter of principle for us that a part of the debt should be redeemed before the supply starts," Novak told reporters during a visit to the Kazakh city of Atyrau with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He also said Ukraine was ready to pay $3.1 billion of the debt but the timetable for the payment, and the price, were yet to be agreed. Moscow wants Kiev to pay in two tranches - $2 billion before the gas flows restart and $1.1 billion by the end of this year.
Novak said Ukraine wanted to pay in three tranches of $1.5 billion, $0.8 billion and $0.8 billion and wanted to make the payments only after gas flows resume.
Tensions are high between Moscow and Kiev over a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, in which the Ukrainian authorities accuse Russia of directly backing armed rebel fighters, and over Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula.
Moscow denies supporting the rebels militarily and is wary of Kiev's moves to deepen ties with the EU. Russia has had sanctions imposed on it by the EU and the United States over its role in the Ukraine crisis.Last Mod: 30 Eylül 2014, 13:10