Ukraine-Russia gas talks flounder ahead of cut-off deadline
Ukraine failed to reach a quick breakthrough with Moscow in talks to avert a Russian gas cut Monday that would hit Europe and add further urgency to the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
Kiev: Ukraine failed to reach a quick breakthrough with Moscow in talks to avert a Russian gas cut Monday that would hit Europe and add further urgency to the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
A Ukrainian source close to the negotiations said the EU-brokered meeting ended after just an hour "without a result" nor any agreement about when the sides might meet again.
But Russia`s RIA Novosti said EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger went back for another meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the chief of Russia`s state gas firm Gazprom after initially returning to his Kiev hotel.
The most critical issue facing both Ukraine and the majority of EU nations is whether Russia`s gas cut would go ahead as threatened at 0600 GMT on Monday.
The third "gas war" between Russia and Ukraine since 2006 flared when Moscow nearly doubled its rates in the wake of a deadly winter uprising that pulled Kiev out of the Kremlin`s historic orbit.
Ukraine receives half its gas supplies from Russia and transports 15 percent of the fuel consumed in Europe -- a reality that prompted EU Energy Oettinger to try to urgently broker a long-term solution to the dispute.
Kiev said heading into the negotiations that it was ready to make a $1.95 billion (1.45 billion euro) payment demanded by Moscow if Russia agreed to cut its ongoing price to $326 from $485.50 for 1,000 cubic metres of gas.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin says $385 per 1,000 cubic metres was his final offer and threatened to turn off Ukraine`s taps if no payment was made by early Monday.
The gas talks were further clouded by a new diplomatic feud that exploded after Ukraine`s acting foreign minister called Putin "a prick" while trying to restrain protesters who attacked Moscow`s embassy compound in Kiev on Saturday.
Nationalists with signs reading "Kremlin -- hands off Ukraine!" tore down the embassy`s Russian tricolour while others smashed its windows with boulders and overturned diplomats` cars.
Ukraine`s new leaders and their Western allies accuse Russia of supplying rocket launchers and even tanks to the insurgents in a bid to break up its western neighbour following the February ouster of a pro-Kremlin regime.
"They wanted to see blood spilt," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed on Sunday.
NATO released satellite images purporting to show three Russian tanks that had crossed the border and were later spotted being raced across the eastern city of Donetsk by militants flying the flag of their self-declared "People`s Republic".
But Moscow has hit back by accusing Western powers of backing dangerous Ukrainian "fascists" who are oppressing the east`s ethnic Russians and waging a "punitive operation".
The embassy protest came in response to the deaths of 49 servicemen killed Saturday when pro-Kremlin rebels downed their military transport plane with weapons Kiev believes were supplied by Moscow.
The loss of life was the biggest suffered by Ukrainian forces in their escalating two-month push to reclaim control of separatist areas of the industrial east.Ukraine`s newly-elected President Petro Poroshenko tapped into the fury provoked by Saturday`s plane downing near the eastern city of Lugansk by vowing to deal the insurgents "an adequate response".
His comments were soon followed by what appeared to be a spontaneous protest outside the gated Russian embassy compound in Kiev that soon turned violent.
The overnight protest only ended after one young man threw a Molotov cocktail that was quickly extinguished.
About a dozen police officers looked on without intervening before leaving the scene.
Washington delivered Kiev a rare rebuke by urging "authorities to meet their Vienna Convention obligations to provide adequate security".
Kiev police Sunday arrested three people accused of inciting the embassy violence.Acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya put himself in the crosshairs of the diplomatic spat by being filmed being telling protesters "Putin is a prick" in a bid to calm the seething crowd.
The insult has become something of a catchphrase for pro-Kiev Ukrainians after it was chanted by thousands of local football fans at a match.
But Deshchytsya`s comments became headline news in Russia and the anger among senior Moscow figures was palpable.
Deshchytsya "allowed himself to make comments that cross all lines of decency," Lavrov said. "I do not know how we are going to work with him from now on."
Kiev media speculate that Deshchytsya`s days as Ukraine`s top diplomat may indeed be numbered because Poroshenko intends to name his own close associate to the post in the coming days.