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Interim deal reached in Ukrainian gas row

Europe fends off cold winter during talks in Berlin.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Gas deal reached during European, Ukrainian and Russian talks. (UPI Photo/Sergey Starostenko) | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/bb799fac104463c6276c9b9c1c5e6a86/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Gas deal reached during European, Ukrainian and Russian talks. (UPI Photo/Sergey Starostenko) | License Photo

BERLIN, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Trilateral natural gas talks Friday in Berlin have resulted in temporary relief for Ukraine, delegates at the conference confirmed.

Russian, Ukrainian and European officials met in Berlin in an effort to avert a gas crisis for the upcoming winter.

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Russia meets about a quarter of the gas needs for Europe, though the bulk of that volume runs through the Soviet-era transit system in Ukraine. Contractual woes in 2006 and 2009 forced Russian gas company Gazprom to cut gas supplies through Ukraine and European leaders are worried about a repeat of the crisis given ongoing acrimony between Kiev and Moscow.

European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said during August talks with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak an interim price, repayment of unpaid bills and fulfillment of transit obligations must be part of an interim solution.

Oettinger said at the conclusion of Friday's talks Ukraine would get a modest discount in price and Ukraine would pay back $3 billion in unsettled debt.

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Novak said Friday a gas discount for Ukraine may extend for six months. Gazprom had offered Ukraine earlier discounts, though Kiev brushed off the deal amid ongoing political concerns about Russian influence in the region.

Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller last week said Russian gas would account for 64 percent of European imports this year, up 17 percent from four years ago.

"The European market is No. 1 for us" he said.

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