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Russia, EU energy chiefs meet one-on-one

Russia's Gazprom said to have European storage 80 percent filled.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BRUSSELS, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- The Russian government said Tuesday its representatives met separately with the European energy commissioner before talks about the Ukrainian gas crisis.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak met one-on-one with European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger ahead of three-way talks that include Ukrainian delegates. Novak said earlier Tuesday he expected the meeting would result in a written agreement on the way to settle the long-standing issue.

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An already-fragile Ukrainian economy was left in further turmoil following the political upheaval that followed Kiev's tilt toward the European Union in November.

Russia meets about a quarter of European gas needs, though the bulk of that gas runs through a Ukrainian pipeline network. Last week, Oettinger said EU member states could stave off winter gas shortages.

"No household in the EU has to be left out in the cold this winter," he said.

Gazprom said Monday it filled European underground gas storage facilities with about 80 percent of the expected winter need.

Under the terms of a draft agreement reached last week in Milan, Ukraine gets a temporary discount on gas from Russia in exchange for a pledge to settle the majority of its debt to Gazprom by the end of the year.

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