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Energy policy

Differences between Russia and Ukraine on reducing the price of Russian gas have been narrowed after talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian officials announced.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said the talks would continue at a later date.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had been expected to debate Kiev joining a Moscow-led customs union.

But Dmitry Peskov said the issue was not discussed.

Last month Viktor Yanukovych shelved a partnership deal with the EU, triggering angry protests in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.

Russia was unhappy with the deal and Vladimir Putin has been urging Ukraine to join a Russian customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The two neighbors have also been trying to resolve a long-running dispute over energy supplies.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin

Ukraine depends on imports of Russian gas, but the supplier, Gazprom, has recently complained that Kiev had fallen behind in payments.

Disputes over supplies to Ukraine before 2009 saw Gazprom temporarily cutting off supplies.

Pipelines passing through Ukraine also pump Russian gas to many EU member states.

Dmitriy Peskov told Interfax news agency that “great attention has been devoted to the co-operation in the energy sphere”.

“Both sides narrowed the gap between their positions as a result of the discussion. However, no final agreement has been reached.”

He added: “The issue of Ukraine joining the customs union was not discussed during the meeting in Sochi.”

Ukraine has so far not commented on the talks.

Correspondents had earlier speculated that an agreement on Ukraine joining the customs union might be reached in return for reduced energy prices.

Many Ukrainians were furious that Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the association agreement with the EU, which had followed years of negotiations.

On Saturday, nearly 1,000 supporters of the EU deal braved snow and swirling winds as they maintained control of Kiev’s Independence Square for the seventh successive day.

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