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Russia plans no Ukraine gas talks before cutoff deadline

Russia's energy ministry said on Friday it intends to hold no new talks with either the European Union or Ukraine before Moscow's deadline to cut off energy supplies unless Kiev pays its gas debt.

MOSCOW: Russia's energy ministry said on Friday it intends to hold no new talks with either the European Union or Ukraine before Moscow's deadline to cut off energy supplies unless Kiev pays its gas debt.

"We are not planning any meetings so far," energy ministry spokeswoman Olga Golant told AFP. Russian officials had no plans to discuss the matter over the phone either before the cutoff early Monday, she added.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said earlier on Friday he hoped a new round of high-stakes gas talks between Ukraine and Russia to avert a cutoff of gas flows to Europe could resume this weekend.

"We agreed that both delegations talk to their respective presidents and prime ministers and that happened yesterday," Oettinger said as he arrived for a meeting with EU energy ministers.

"I am expecting that we continue tomorrow, on Saturday, the talks between the minister of Ukraine and the minister of Russia and the CEOs of the gas companies and their delegations."

Russian and Ukrainian energy companies are locked in a dispute over gas prices after a popular uprising ousted Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February.

On Thursday, gas giant Gazprom said Kiev had until 0600 GMT Monday to pay the Russian state firm $1.95 billion (1.44 billion euros) or face a gas cutoff.

Russia has warned that European energy supplies could be interrupted and urged the West to help cover Ukraine's bill.

The latest round of EU-brokered talks broke up on Wednesday in Brussels, with Ukraine refusing Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer of a "final price" of $385 per 1,000 cubic metres.

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller described Ukraine's stance as "simply blackmail" and threatened to lodge a counterclaim against Ukraine's Naftogaz if taken to court.

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