KIEV: Crisis-hit Ukraine and the European Union will try on Thursday to forge a joint stance at crunch talks with Russia in the latest gas war with its westward-leaning neighbor.
The meeting of Ukraine and EU energy officials in Brussels became even more critical after EU member Slovakia reported a 50-percent drop in Russian supplies following its decision to divert imports to Ukraine to help ease its spreading fuel shortage.
Europe’s top energy envoy will then try on Friday to convince both the Kiev and Moscow gas chiefs, during talks in Berlin, to strike a compromise before winter forces Ukraine to consider tapping into the Russian gas bound for Europe.
Russia cut its deliveries to Ukraine in mid-June after a pro-Western government took power, saying that Kiev had not been paying its bills on time.
Since then pro-Russia rebels have waged an ongoing separatist struggle in eastern Ukraine.
An acrimonious first round of talks in Berlin broke up last Friday with EU and Russian talk of an initial agreement being quickly quashed by Ukraine.
The EU energy commissioner said at the time that the “winter package” allowed Ukraine to purchase emergency supplies of gas at a reduced rate over six months.
This would give Moscow and Kiev time to negotiate a long-term contract and ways to settle Russia’s debt claim of $5.3 billion (4.2 billion euros) that Ukraine denies owing.
Russia’s energy minister said he thought a successful outcome on this occasion was likely.
But his Ukrainian counterpart stressed that Kiev rejected many of the conditions demanded by Moscow and laid out in last week’s EU plan.
“The European Commission has submitted its proposals. And we have submitted our slightly different ones,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan said shortly before setting off for Brussels.