EU: Russia, Ukraine agree 'in principle' on gas transit

A senior European Union official says Russia and Ukraine have reached an “agreement in principle” on the future of Russian gas transit through Ukraine

BERLIN -- Russia and Ukraine reached an “agreement in principle” Thursday on the future transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory, days before the current deal between the two countries is due to expire at the end of the year.

The announcement comes amid hopes for a thaw between Moscow and Kyiv after years of conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who brokered the talks in Berlin, said that the two sides reached an agreement late Thursday after “very intensive negotiations."

“I am very glad to say that we reached that agreement in principle on all key elements, which I believe is very good and very positive news for Europe, for Russia, for Ukraine, for gas markets and for citizens in all countries,” Sefcovic said.

Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that "we will preserve transit through Ukraine.”

“We will search for a solution acceptable to all, including Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference.

Sefcovic said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksiy Orzhel, would take the deal back to their respective capitals before the details are agreed upon and the agreement is finalized.

Disagreement over the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine led to a supply stop in 2009, leaving many consumers in Eastern Europe without gas during the cold winter months.