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BRUSSELS, March 2. /TASS/. Conditions for gas supplies to eastern Ukraine and implementation of a "winter package" between Kiev and Moscow will be in focus at talks in Brussels on Monday involving energy officials from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union.
Hosted by the European Commission, the trilateral meeting will bring together Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Demchishin, the chief executive of Russia’s gas giant Gazprom, Alexey Miller, the head of Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz, Andrey Kobolev, and EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic.
It is the first meeting in this format since October 31 last year, when parties agreed on conditions for gas deliveries until the end of March.
The European Commission is now seeking separate discussion of gas deliveries to the eastern region of Donbas and to the rest of Ukraine, a European source told TASS last week, adding that priority should be given to compliance with commitments on gas deliveries and gas transit to Europe by Russia and Ukraine.
Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told reporters on Thursday that the implementation of the previous set of agreements would be the main topic during the new gas price negotiations. When asked whether a "summer package" would also be discussed, Itkonen said that the "winter package" would be a priority on the agenda.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on the eve of the trilateral talks in Brussels Russia was prepared to supply natural gas directly to the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics only if Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz files a notification on refusal to deliver gas there.
"Only if there’s a written confirmation. As for now, we hear only oral statements from Naftogaz," he said on Friday, noting that deliveries of Russian gas to Donbas had been separated from the exports to Naftogaz.
Novak recalled that Russia was supplying 12 million cubic meters of gas to the crisis-stricken south-eastern regions of Ukraine, adding that the Russian side believed the pumping of gas through the gas measuring stations in Ukraine’s southeast stands in line with the effective agreement, which Gazprom and Naftogaz signed in 2009.
On February 20, after Kiev suspended gas supplies to Donbas citing "critical damage" done to the pipelines as a reason, Gazprom activated its Prokhorovka and Platovo gas measuring stations to start supplying 12 million cubic meters of natural gas a day to southeast Ukraine as part of its gas contract with Naftogaz. But the Ukrainian national energy company said it would not pay for those gas deliveries.
Russia's envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said on Friday a stop to gas supply to Donbass by Ukraine might be interpreted by all impartial onlookers as a sure sign Kiev no longer regarded the area as its territory.
"The problem of gas supplies to Donbas is confined to the need for Kiev to make a choice: how it sees this region, and if it still considers the people living there as Ukrainian citizens," Chizhov said. "If this is so, from the standpoint of logic the Ukrainian government and Naftogaz are obliged to supply gas there. If they suspend gas supplies to Donbas, every observer will clearly see that Kiev no longer regards this territory as its own," he said.
As for the "winter package", the funds that Naftogaz had prepaid for Russian gas will suffice for deliveries until Tuesday, Energy Minister Novak said.
"If Naftogaz paid for another 24 hours, it means the resources would last till Tuesday through Monday," he said. "Now the deadline for prepaid has been postponed by a day. They can also pay for Tuesday - it depends on them now. We are acting in the framework of our agreement, we are not violating it. If they want gas, they have to pay," he added.
Novak did not rule out suspending supplies if further prepayment failed to come in.
On February 27, Gazprom confirmed it received $15 million from Naftogaz of Ukraine in prepayment for gas. This means Ukraine will be receiving gas on March 2 when the trilateral meeting between Russia, Ukraine and the EU takes place.