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Russia offers to host EU, Ukraine gas talks on April 28

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(MOSCOW) - Russia on Wednesday proposed to host three-way talks on its gas supplies to Europe in Moscow on April 28 with the European Union and Ukraine.

Russia made the offer to EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, the Interfax news agency reported, citing a spokesman for the Russian energy ministry.

"But we are ready to discuss proposals from our partners on the place and time of the meeting," the spokesman added.

Asked about the April 28 date, the European Commission said in Brussels that it could not confirm the timing.

The proposal came after Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 10 sent a letter to 18 EU countries urging immediate talks and warning that Moscow could cut gas supplies to Ukraine unless Europe helps to pay the neighbouring country's $2.2-billion energy bill.

The EU last week accepted the offer of talks, warning Moscow its reliability as an energy source was at stake.

Putin last week gave Ukraine one month to settle its gas debt, warning that after this period Moscow would demand pre-payment from Kiev for gas.

Ukraine's gas pipelines carry 65 billion of the 133 billion cubic metres used each year by the EU's 28 member-states, according to EU data.

The European Commission also said that Oettinger will meet his Ukrainian and Slovak counterparts in Bratislava on Thursday to finalise an accord on the supply of European gas to Kiev, reducing its reliance on Russian supplies.

Oettinger has said such a "reverse flow" arrangement could provide Ukraine with up to 8.0 billion cubic metres via Slovakia by the end of the year.

Gas could also be made available via the Polish and Hungarian pipeline networks.

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