MOSCOW, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said it would continue talks with Ukraine next week on gas supplies and Kiev’s debts for them, despite earlier announcing that the issues had been resolved.
Gazprom said in a statement on Friday that a new round of talks would start on Monday, when Ukraine’s Energy Minister Yuri Boiko returns to Moscow.
Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, which supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas needs, said on Tuesday it might reduce gas supplies to Ukraine if the country failed to repay a $1.3 billion debt for earlier deliveries.
The threat caused unease in the European Union as a previous pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine, the most important transit route for Russian gas to Europe, resulted in significant supply reductions to some EU countries early in 2006.
Gazprom issued the warning as Ukraine was still calculating results of its parliamentary elections and the move was seen by many analysts as a Russian attempt to put pressure on Ukraine to form a government that would take a pro-Moscow stance.
On Wednesday, Gazprom said that Ukraine had pledged to redeem the debt before Nov. 1.
The issue is complicated as Ukrainian officials have acknowledged the country may owe some money but disputed the sum named by Gazprom, while President Viktor Yushchenko denied that Ukraine or state-owned energy firm Naftogaz owed anything at all.
On Thursday, Gazprom announced that Ukraine had cut its gas consumption by almost 23 percent in the first three days of October, without saying whether this was linked to the dispute.
Ukraine’s Naftogaz said the fall reflected a practice in September — two weeks before heating is switched on for households — of cutting supplies to indebted power stations to press them into paying their arrears to the company.
“We know that at the beginning of the heating season (Oct. 15) demand jumps sharply, so we try to make debtors meet their obligations,” a Naftogaz spokesman said on Friday.
Power stations owe Naftogaz some 750 million hryvnias ($148 million) so far this year, according to Naftogaz.
Additional reporting by Sabina Zawadzki in Kiev