September 18, 2019 / 10:50 AM / a month ago

Ukraine will support EU's Sefcovic proposal at gas talks

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine will support a proposal by European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic on Russian gas supply at trilateral talks set for Sept. 19, Energy Minister Oleksiy Orzhel said on Wednesday.

In January, Sefcovic proposed a new 10-year transit contract with a guaranteed minimum yearly transit volume of 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) with 30 bcm of additional flexibility.

“We offer to sign an agreement in accordance with European standards. We have a position that was voiced by Sefcovic... we fully support this position, we will support this position in the negotiations,” Orzhel told a news briefing.

Kiev is worried that Moscow could stop gas supplies through Ukraine, leaving some Ukrainian regions without gas in winter.

Ukraine halted its own imports of Russian gas in November 2015 but it traditionally uses some of the gas which Russian exporter Gazprom pipes across the country to Europe for its own needs in eastern and central regions and compensates for this with gas from storage.

Orzhel said the government also approved a new unbundling plan for state energy firm Naftogaz which he said could help to reach a new agreement in accordance with EU standards.

Representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the EU will meet on in Brussels to discuss the future of Russian gas transit to Europe via Ukraine as the current 10-year agreement expires in January.

Ukrainian gas transport company Ukrtransgaz has already upgraded several gas pumping stations so it can provide gas to eastern and southern regions of the country if there is a disruption in supply from Russia.

Russia wants to strike a short-term deal with Kiev on gas transit to Europe while Ukraine seeks a long-term deal in a bid to guarantee supply to its own consumers.

Ukraine used to meet its gas needs with imports from Russia but has not bought Russian gas directly since 2015 after Kiev’s relations with Moscow soured over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by Jon Boyle and Jason Neely

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