Kiev has agreed to fill its gas storage for the continuation of Russian energy deliveries to Europe for the next winter, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak claimed on Wednesday.
Novak said Ukraine has committed to fill its storage to maintain pumping of the Russian gas deliveries into Europe after the trilateral talks were held between the representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union in Brussels on Tuesday.
Sources close to the energy talks in Brussels told Reuters Moscow and Kiev might be close to agree on an outline of gas protocol for which the ministerial meeting will be expected to be gathered at the end of this month to resolve some key outstanding disagreements.
The key problems knotted around were how long the protocol would last, the formula applied to discount prices for Ukraine and fees charged by Ukraine for the transit of Russian gas over its territory.
Novak told reporters in Vienna that “They have agreed on some positions of the protocol, including on pumping no less than 19 bcm into the storages before the forthcoming winter.”
However, the Ukrainian side has not confirmed yet the agreed outline protocol, but only said it needed from 14 to 19 billion cubic metres (bcm) in its storage to continue Russian gas supplies to Europe.
Meanwhile Ukraine’s gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz has announced that it had 10.27 bcm of gas in its storage tanks as of June 1.
As a transient country of the Russian gas deliveries, Ukraine has long been suffering from gas bargaining issues with Russia which allegedly uses energy transportation as a soft power diplomacy over Kiev and other eastern European countries.
Ukraine has been trying to maintain its gas deliveries from Russia’s state monopoly Gazprom with the auspices of the EU since the end of 2014.
The EU-mediated talks secured Ukraine’s energy demands last winter, but the ongoing ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine still endanger Ukraine’s energy security which is heavily dependent on Moscow.
Russia had previously cut off twice the gas flow going to eastern Europe through Ukraine in 2007 and 2009 when Gazprom and its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz could not have solved the unpaid debts and price bargaining issues.
Moscow delivers about 40 percent of its gas flow via traversing Ukrainian territory en route to Europe in the eastern gas corridor.
But the EU was seeking to diminish its energy dependency on Russia particularly after the Ukrainian crisis erupted last year onwards.
Gas sector incomes constitute approximately a fifth of Russia’s national economy which was hit by the Western sanctions and sudden drops in oil prices since the last year.