Slovakia to host trilateral talks on reverse gas flow to Ukraine

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A memorandum of understanding with Ukraine and an agreement on a gas-pipeline connection will be signed during a trilateral meeting of experts from Slovakia, Ukraine and the European Commission, local media reported on Friday.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic confirmed the meeting will take place in Slovakia on April 15, local news agency TASR reported.

Slovakia has declared it is ready to ensure a reverse gas flow for Ukraine, but insists on transparent and constructive talks with the country. It also demands that this solution must be in line with the European Union (EU) legal framework and Slovakia's international commitments.

According to energy analyst Jozef Badida, Slovak gas-pipeline operator Eustream will profit from constructing a facility allowing a reverse gas flow from the West to Ukraine if the latter uses the option.

Ukraine has of late begun to be more insistent about building the new physical connection in recent weeks, said Badida.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on Thursday stated that Slovakia wants to help Ukraine with gas supplies from the West, but requires guarantees.

"We are ready to organise the reverse flow, but we also need to protect our own interests. In particular, we need to ascertain whether certain technical forms of reverse flow don't breach our contract with Gazprom -- with possible sanctions to follow," said Fico.

The EU is considering an assistance package to Ukraine in a bid to counteract Russian influence on the country's energy system, Ukrainian Energy and Coal Minister Yuri Prodan said Friday.

"The aid package provides for financial assistance, increased reverse gas supplies and European gas network operators' solidarity with Ukraine," Prodan told the parliament after his visit to Brussels.

The preliminary agreement with the 28-member block envisages prospects for Ukraine to start reverse flows from France via Slovakia and Romania, Prodan said.

He added that Kiev was also planning to increase gas imports from Germany.

The EU is also ready to dismiss a possibility to increase gas flows via Russia's Yamal-Europe and North Stream pipelines, if Moscow halts gas exports to Ukraine, Prodan said.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders that Moscow may cut gas supplies to Ukraine over Kiev's huge debt.

In early April, Russian gas giant Gazprom canceled discounts on gas supplies to Ukraine and set a price of 485 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters, which Kiev sees as too high. Endi

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