MILAN (AP) – Russian and Ukrainian leaders sounded optimistic after marathon, Europe-brokered talks Friday, signaling progress on both a definitive peace settlement in Ukraine and a gas dispute that threatens to disrupt supplies to Europe this winter.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko stopped short of declaring a breakthrough, they both spoke with renewed confidence.
Putin offered praise for Poroshenko’s move to give more powers to the east and supported the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring of the truce with drones. Putin also voiced confidence that the issue of Russians who have joined the insurgency in eastern Ukraine could be settled.
Both leaders said they reached consent on the basic guidelines of a gas deal to prevent possible supply disruptions in the winter.
The sticking point remains financing, and Putin indicated that the EU should pick up the tab. “We expect our European partners to offer help to Ukraine,” he said.
Alexei Miller, the CEO of the Russian gas company Gazprom, told Russian news agencies from Milan that the leaders agreed Kiev would pay back $3.1 billion by the end of the year. It is not clear how much Ukraine would have on hand, raised through loans or with the EU’s help.
Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the summer over unpaid bills, raising the risks that Ukraine would siphon off gas from the pipeline passing through its territory from Russia to Europe.
As part of an overall peace deal, Europe is seeking full compliance with a month-old cease-fire, clear border controls and local elections in eastern Ukraine in compliance with Ukrainian law, and not under auspices of the rebels.