Talks will resume as Kiev prepares to send gas chief to Moscow

In the first sign of compromise in the energy dispute that has shaken Europe, the Ukraine has announced it will send the head of its gas company to Moscow. Gazprom said Russia was ready to resume talks.


AFP - Ukraine said Tuesday it would send the head of its gas company to Moscow this week to resume talks with Russian gas giant Gazprom, the first sign of compromise in an energy dispute that has shaken Europe.

"I am going to Moscow on January 8," Oleh Dubina, chief of Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz, said at a news conference.

In Moscow, Gazprom quickly reiterated its readiness to resume talks immediately.

"We are ready to start negotiations, considering the crisis situation, at any minute," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.

Kupriyanov said however that the Russian company was "surprised" Ukraine wanted to wait another two days before returning to the negotiating table.

The current gas crisis was triggered when negotiations between Gazprom and Naftogaz collapsed shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve, prompting Russia to follow through the next morning in cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine.

In the days that followed, Gazprom accused Ukraine of illegally siphoning Russian gas from pipelines crossing its territory -- gas that was meant to be sent to Gazprom customers in Europe.

Ukraine denied that accusation, instead blaming Russia for intentionally reducing volumes of gas to provoke a crisis.

Both companies have called daily for a resumption of talks, but each has demanded the other send a delegation to their respective capitals -- a compromise neither appeared ready to make prior to the Naftogaz announcement.

Dubina had previously said he would return to Moscow only on condition Russia was ready for a "normal approach" to talks.

He said he had agreed to travel to Moscow after speaking by telephone with Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller.

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