Putin, Zelenskiy discuss natural gas in phone talk

File combo picture. Ukranian then Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky (L) talks to the media during the Ukrainian presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 April 2019, and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) gestures while answering a question during his annual press conference in in Moscow, Russia, 23 December 2016. [Tatyana Zenkovich/Yuri Kochetkov/EPA/EFE]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy have discussed natural gas supplies to Ukraine and gas transit via the country further into Europe, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday (25 November).

The current deal regarding Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and transit to Europe expires after 31 December.

EU-mediated talks for a new deal held on 28 October ended in deadlock.

EU-mediated Russia-Ukraine gas talks in deadlock

Russia and Ukraine need a sense of urgency in their talks on gas transit for Europe, the European Union’s energy chief said after the latest round in Brussels on Monday (28 October) failed to yield progress.

However, there is still hope an agreement could be reached before the end of the year.

The Kremlin also said the leaders have talked about the handover to Ukraine of the three ships Russia seized in the Kerch Strait last year after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors.

Putin and Zelenskiy, as well as the leaders of Germany and France are due to meet in Paris on 9 December to discuss the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

In the meantime, a senior Naftogaz official said on Monday that the Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz has pledged to press on with talks on gas transit with Russian gas exporter Gazprom and the EU.

Gazprom, which owes Ukraine around $3 billion, may repay that debt with gas supplies, Naftogaz Executive Director Yuriy Vitrenko said on Facebook.

Last week Gazprom said it had sent Ukraine a letter to formally propose extending a deal supplying gas to the country either for its own use and for transit to Europe, or the signing of a new one-year agreement.

“At present, we do not see any legitimate reasons for not concluding a new contract for the transit of gas through Ukraine according to European rules, and we express our willingness to work honestly on this,” Vitrenko said.

He added that Ukraine supported the idea of a new 10-year transit contract, with a guaranteed minimum yearly transit volume of 60 bcm and 30 bcm of additional flexibility.

Ukraine is one of the main routes by which Russia exports gas to Europe. Moscow’s construction of new pipelines, such as Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream, is aimed at bypassing Russian gas transit through Ukraine.

Last year, Kremlin-controlled Gazprom GAZP.MM supplied Europe with more than 200 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas, of which 87 bcm went through Ukraine, providing Kyiv with transit income of around $3 billion.

Relations between Kiev and Moscow have deteriorated since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 and pro-Kremlin separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine. Ukraine halted its own imports of Russian gas in November 2015 after a row with Gazprom over prices and payments.

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