* European Commission says precise dates being explored
* Three-way talks in May and June failed to get a deal
(Adds Commission comment, context)
MOSCOW, July 7 Russian Energy Minister Alexander
Novak plans to meet European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther
Oettinger late next week for gas supply talks, Russia's Energy
Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The planned talks would follow weeks of debate to try to
solve a row over how much Russia charges Ukraine for its gas,
which has led Russian gas company Gazprom to cut off
supplies to Ukraine.
During a telephone conversation between Oettinger and Novak
on Monday, the two sides "agreed to hold a bilateral meeting at
the end of next week ... to address the key issues of EU-Russia
relations in the energy sector," the Russian statement said.
Separately, the European Commission said Novak and Oettinger
had agreed to schedule a meeting and that possible dates were
"The aim is to pave the way for another round of trilateral
consultations between the European Union, Russia and Ukraine,"
Commission spokeswoman Sabine Berger said in an emailed comment.
A series of three-way talks brokered by the Commission in
May and June failed to solve the price dispute between Moscow
Ukraine depends on Russia for more than half of its gas
needs. The nation is also the transit route for roughly half of
the gas Russia supplies to the EU, which counts on Gazprom for
about 30 percent of its consumption.
Previous pricing rows between Moscow and Kiev have resulted
in knock-on disruptions for EU customers, but no nation has
reported problems since Russia cut supplies to Ukraine last
month and the amount of gas in storage is ample.
The gas row has complicated a wider conflict over Russia's
seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region earlier this year and Kiev's
decision to seek closer ties with the EU, rather than Moscow.
Monday's telephone talks between Oettinger and Novak on the
gas row followed a victory for Kiev at the weekend, when
Ukrainian forces routed pro-Russian rebels in a flashpoint area
of eastern Ukraine.
The Kiev government has said it will act quickly to seize
back more territory from rebels after re-taking Slaviansk in
what President Petro Poroshenko called a turning point in the
three-month conflict against pro-Russian fighters in the east.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Barbara Lewis in
Brussels; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Pravin Char
and David Evans)