There are reports of some progress in the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices which has been a further source of tension between the two countries.
During talks in Berlin, the two governments are said to be considering payment by Ukraine of $2 billion of back debt by Thursday with a further $500 million to be paid in June.
Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak appeared up-beat about the proposal:
“Our side is prepared, when we receive the payments, to continue negotiations until Friday about prices for future supplies to the Ukrainian site..”
But Ukraine was less forthcoming saying they had until Wednesday night to to look at the proposal put forward by the EU’s energy Commissioner.
“I only want to reiterate it’s not a question of payment but it’s about a fair market price. The payment is not an issue and if a fair price is fixed Ukraine will pay its debts,” said Ukrainian Energy Minister, Yuri Prodan.
And that’s the crux of the matter – Ukraine wants to change the conditions of a 2009 contract that locked Kyiv into buying a set volume of gas whether it needs it or not at $485 per 1,000 cubic metres – the highest price paid by any country in Europe.