RIA Novosti: Moscow to Hold New Gas Talks Only After Kiev Clears its Debt – Russian Energy Minister

Gas Facility file photo

MOSCOW, June 18 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow only intends to resume trilateral gas talks after Ukraine repays its debt for Russian gas supplies, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Wednesday.

“First of all, we expect payments to be made on the debt for November-December and April-May deliveries. Only after this would we consider having talks, if they are needed,” Novak told reporters while answering a question about the date of a new round of talks. Earlier in the day, Ukraine called Russia’s Gazprom to resume gas negotiations.

Starting from Monday, the Russian gas giant was forced to enact a prepayment system for gas deliveries to Ukraine after talks on the new price and debt payments mediated by EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger failed. The decision, according to Gazprom, will not affect Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

The European Commission has called for a continuation of talks to resolve the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, and hopes the sides reach a compromise this summer.

Ukraine’s gas debt to Russia has been building since 2013, when the country found itself amid a deep political crisis. According to the latest estimates, Ukraine owes Russia $4.46 billion in unpaid bills, and has been running up more debt at a rate of some $1 billion per month. Kiev has been driving a hard bargain in its dispute with Moscow, pressing for a price of $268 per 1,000 cubic meters.

On Monday, Ukraine’s Naftogaz turned to the Stockholm arbitration court to contest the price for natural gas deliveries from Russia. The same day, Gazprom announced that it is suing Naftogaz to recover its debt.