Gas price row talks set for Friday as Ukraine cut-off deadline looms

Thu May 29, 2014 8:25am EDT

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* No word on whether Russia, Ukraine willing to accept EU plan

* Moscow has set June 2 deadline for pre-payment

BRUSSELS May 29 (Reuters) - Talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission will go ahead on Friday, the Commission said, as time runs out to solve a gas price dispute that Moscow has warned could make it cut off supplies.

The Commission, the EU executive, has already brokered two rounds of talks in Berlin following Moscow's threat it would stop supplying Kiev with gas if it fails to make a pre-payment for June supplies by June 2.

At talks on Monday, Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the two governments would study his proposal that Ukraine pay off part of the debt Gazprom says it owes.

It is not yet clear whether Russia and Ukraine are willing to accept that plan, but Commission spokeswoman Sabine Berger told Reuters a third round of talks will take place in Berlin on Friday afternoon.

Gazprom has said Ukraine's debt for gas supplies will have risen to about $5.2 billion by June 7 unless Ukraine begins to pay it off, while Ukraine has countered that Gazprom owes it natural gas because of Russia's seizure of Crimea.

Oettinger said on Wednesday he was working on getting Russia and Ukraine to agree on "a fair price" over the coming days, but some of the related issues would be too complex for a quick solution.

Apart from relying on Russia for its own energy needs, Ukraine is the transit nation for around half of the gas Russia sells to the European Union. If Russia cuts off Ukraine's gas, it therefore raises the risk of knock-on disruption to the EU. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis, editing by William Hardy)

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