BRUSSELS: The EU said it hoped for a “positive outcome” in talks in Brussels on Monday between the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers aimed at resolving a gas supply dispute threatening deliveries to Europe.
Russian state owned gas giant Gazprom threatened last week to cut deliveries to Ukraine and divert supplies instead to eastern parts of the country controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.
The European Union receives about a third of its gas from Russia, with half that amount transiting via Ukraine pipelines.
European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic has invited energy ministers Alexander Novak of Russia and Volodymyr Demchyshyn of Ukraine to Brussels for talks due to start at 1400 GMT.
“Hope for positive outcome,” Sefcovic said in a tweet.
Tensions rose last month when Gazprom began supplying gas directly to separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine and demanded Kiev pay for it.
Rebel leaders in east Ukraine said that Kiev had suddenly ceased gas supplies and asked for access to gas from Russia, which is accused of backing the separatists with troops, weapons and other types of assistance.
Naftogaz, Ukraine’s national gas company, confirmed the cut, saying it was due to pipeline damage caused by fighting. It is also due to be represented in Monday’s talks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Kiev’s move to cut gas supply smacked of “genocide” and targeted four million people living in the area.
The European Commission has said it expected both sides to continue to respect a “winter package” deal mediated by the EU late last year which guaranteed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine through the end of March.
Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkoken has said Monday’s talks were designed to “hear both sides’ views, to try to mediate” and get the winter package back on track.
In earlier disputes in 2006 and 2009, Gazprom shut off deliveries, causing huge disruption to European gas supplies at the height of winter.