Russia and Ukraine have agreed on the outlines of a contract to resolve their dispute over gas supplies, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Friday after a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France and Germany.
“We have agreed on the main parameters of the (gas) contract,” Poroshenko told reporters after the talks at the margins of a summit of Asian and European leaders in Milan.
Poroshenko and Putin met together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande after an earlier round of talks with EU leaders that was described by a Kremlin spokesman as “difficult”.
“I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier today, after top EU leaders met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of an EU-Asia (ASEM) summit in Milan.
“We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she added, clearly pinning the blame for the impasse on Moscow.
The West has clamped sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea in March and its support for pro-Russian separatists battling government troops in the east of Ukraine.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Moscow of aiding the separatist revolt by providing troops and arms. Russia denies the charges but says it has a right to defend the interests of the region’s Russian-speaking majority.
The European leaders urged Russia to do more to end constant, deadly violations of a ceasefire that was agreed by Putin and Poroshenko last month in Minsk, saying Russia must fulfill its commitments and withdraw forces from the area.
Officials said local elections in eastern Ukraine and the issue of using unmanned drone aircraft for surveillance of the borders between Russia and Ukraine were particular sticking points, with Russia pushing to have its drones flying alongside those already offered for the mission by France and Germany.
A smiling Putin emerged from the morning to tell reporters: “It was good, it was positive.” However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later gave a very different readout, saying “certain participants” had taken an “absolutely biased, non-flexible, non-diplomatic” approach to Ukraine.
“The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, the exchange of opinion is in progress,” he said.
Merkel’s position as German leader in effect means that she sets the tone of EU relations with Russia, and she has taken the lead within Europe in trying to persuade Putin to change tack over Ukraine. She had a rocky time in Milan, however, with one German official saying the Russian leader had not displayed a “too constructive mood”.
A payment dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supply and transit left millions of East Europeans without heating in the first three weeks of 2009. The Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute puts the gas supplies to the EU once more at risk, as in 2009.
Today, the EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes. Energy dependence relates to crude oil (almost 90%), to natural gas (66%), and to a lesser extent to solid fuels (42%) as well as nuclear fuel (40%). Around half of the EU's primary energy consumption (48%) is used for space and water heating.