Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ukraine agrees to Russia talks


Russia and Ukraine remained deadlocked in their energy war yesterday with European governments becoming increasing angry and exasperated over the dispute.

More than two weeks after cutting off supplies to Ukraine, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested an international takeover of the Ukrainian gas transit network to Europe.

In an interview with German television ahead of a visit to Berlin, Putin recommended setting up “an international consortium that would rent Ukraine’s gas pipelines and maybe even take part in privatizing it if Ukraine wishes.”

He added however Ukraine would probably not be persuaded to sell its transit system, which he described as a Ukrainian “fetish.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s office said a meeting with Russia to try to resolve the crisis had been arranged for tomorrow after she spoke by phone with Putin, although who would participate was unclear.

Putin and Tymoshenko spoke by telephone shortly after midnight yesterday, and agreed to meet face-to-face for talks on energy tomorrow in Moscow.

The telephone discussion was “productive” and “gives hope for the development of a compromise,” the statement from Tymoshenko’s office said.

An effective Kremlin embargo on gas shipments to Ukraine has been in effect for three weeks and on transit shipments to Europe for eight days so far.

Putin reportedly rang Tymoshenko in response to a Wednesday request by the Ukrainian prime minister they speak directly.

The pair are due to meet in Moscow tomorrow to discuss a possible resolution to the energy deadlock between the two countries, and a renewal of natural gas deliveries to Europe, the Tymoshenko statement said.

The lack of a contract between Russia and Ukraine regulating natural gas shipments has been at the root of the present crisis, with both Kiev and the Kremlin manipulating energy deliveries to Europe in an attempt to wring better contract terms out of their opponent.

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