Ukraine Makes Gas Payment Ahead of Energy Talks

Ukraine Makes Gas Payment Ahead of Energy TalksUkraine Makes Gas Payment Ahead of Energy Talks

Ukraine has sent $15 million to pay for Russian gas, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Friday, just days after Moscow had threatened to cut off supplies to its neighbor due to non-payment.

Russia may cut off gas supplies to Ukraine before trilateral gas talks slated for March 2 in Brussels if Kiev fails to make a prepayment, Novak was quoted by RT as saying Friday.

“The possibility exists [that gas deliveries will be cut off] if finances aren’t received for the prepayment of gas volumes…being delivered to Ukraine and we have literally to the end of the week [to wait] for these prepayments,” Novak said.

Russia gas giant Gazprom said that Ukraine will not have to pay for gas supplied to areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region under rebel control: Donetsk and Luhansk.

"But the gas flow to the rest of Ukraine could be suspended as early as Monday because they have only prepaid for enough gas to last until the end of the week,” explained Gazprom spokesperson Sergey Kuprinyanov.

“We are prepared to leave gas deliveries to the Donbass region out of the discussions. And we are ready to deliver gas in the requested quantities through the transit stations they have indicated. But, given the current supply level, their prepayment is only enough to last until the end of the week,” he added/

Last summer, Moscow suspended Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and switched Kiev over to a prepayment system over its massive debt, amounting to more than $5 billion at the time

Meanwhile the European Commission has invited the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers to Brussels on Monday for a trilateral meeting to discuss gas security and supply.

"We have been invited to three-way talks and have confirmed our participation. First of all we're going to talk about the situation with current supplies to Ukraine and gas transit to European consumers," Novak told reporters. The dispute could disrupt gas flow to Europe which gets around a third of its supplies from Russia. About 40 percent of that supply comes via Ukraine.

  Chinese Investment

Russia may consider allowing Chinese investors more than 50 percent stakes in its strategic oil and gas fields, an official said on Friday, an about-face by Moscow that underlines its need for foreign help to develop energy reserves.

Now that Western sanctions over Moscow's role in Ukraine have all but halted that cooperation, Russia has overcome a "psychological barrier" and is ready to deepen its economic ties with China, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said.

"We have a strategic partnership with China and now decisions are made much faster than before. In particular, we have a gas contract, a second one will be signed soon. Now we know China better: their motives and intentions are understood," he told a conference in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. President Vladimir Putin has pushed for closer ties with Asia since the European Union and United States imposed sanctions on Russia last year over its role in the Ukraine conflict, plunging relations to lows not seen since the Cold War. Last year, he oversaw the signing of a deal, valued by Russian state-owned gas firm Gazprom at $400 billion, to supply China with 38 billion cubic metres of gas per year by pipeline from 2019. So far, Russia sells pipeline gas only to Europe.