An employee walks next to a pipeline at the Bilche-Volytsko-Uherske underground gas storage facility, the largest in Europe, in western Ukraine (ALEXANDER ZOBIN)

Moscow (AFP) – Russia and the European Union on Thursday expressed hope that a solution could be found to allow gas supply transits through Ukraine to continue from next year.

Ukraine however accused Russia of seeking to “deceive” both Kiev and Brussels, casting doubt on the possibility of the agreement’s extension.

Most of Russia’s gas destined for Europe passes through Ukraine.

The transit agreement between Kiev and Moscow expires at the end of this year.

With the two countries at loggerheads over Crimea, Ukraine’s territory annexed by Russia in 2014 and a separatist conflict in the east of the country, Moscow and Kiev have struggled to agree on the deal’s extension.

But Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic of Slovakia expressed hope after talks on Thursday that a solution would be found.

“We believe that we won’t need a plan B because over the past four years we’ve always had some issues… and we’ve always found good, constructive solutions,” Sefcovic said in translated comments.

Novak for his part reiterated Moscow’s position that Russia stood ready to extend the gas agreement on prior terms.

“Russia has a constructive position. It is ready to continue gas transit through Ukraine and ensure supplies for European consumers,” he told reporters.

Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz are embroiled in a legal dispute in a Swedish court and Novak said that settling it was crucial for the extension of the transit deal.

Novak also said Russia was ready to renew gas supplies to Ukraine that were halted in 2015.

The Russian energy minister added that three-way gas talks involving Kiev would take place no earlier than mid-September, after Ukraine holds parliamentary polls in the summer.

Yuriy Vitrenko, executive director at Naftogaz, took issue with Russia’s position, accusing Moscow of delaying the three-way talks.

“It appears that Russia is waiting for ‘negotiators’ who will betray Ukraine’s interests,” he said on Facebook.

“They are trying to deceive both Ukraine and Europe,” he added, referring to Moscow.

Vitrenko said the current transit deal would not be in Kiev’s interests, adding that the European Union should prepare to live without a new transit agreement from next year.

In the past Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly clashed over gas deliveries, with Moscow cutting supplies to Europe.

Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.