KIEV, June 8 (Reuters) - Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz is prepared to attend talks with Russian gas giant Gazprom provided negotiations are not held in Russia, Naftogaz said on Thursday.
Gazprom and Naftogaz have been locked in a bitter legal dispute since 2014, a byproduct of worsening relations between Kiev and Moscow since Ukraine’s pro-European uprising and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said this week the Russian company was ready for talks with Ukraine on gas transit to Europe beyond 2019, when the current contract expires.
He did not say where any talks should be held.
“The Russian Federation is an unacceptable location for negotiations between Naftogaz of Ukraine and Gazprom,” Naftogaz said in a statement.
“Naftogaz remains open for discussions with Gazprom in Brussels or other city of the European Union,” it said.
The two companies lodged multi-billion-dollar claims against each other with a Stockholm arbitration court, which resolves commercial agreement disputes.
In two separate cases Kiev has demanded a higher tariff for the transit fee it charges Russia to transit to Europe and to cancel the requirement “take or pay” for the gas supply deal signed in 2009.
Last week, Naftogaz said the court had ruled in its favour regarding the “take or pay” clause, although Gazprom said the ruling was an interim stage in the court process and the decision was positive for Gazprom “on balance.”
Since 2014, Ukraine has been weaning itself off reliance on Russian energy supplies and has not bought gas directly from Russia since November 2015, relying instead on purchases from European Union member states and its own supply.
But Ukraine remains a major route for Russian gas supplies to Europe, pumping 82.2 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in 2016, 23 percent more than a year earlier. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Edmund Blair)