Putin: Russia offered gas deal to help Ukraine economy

gas worker The European Commission said a deal could take days

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin has said a gas price discount deal offered to Ukraine was designed to help its economy.

After another round of negotiations, Ukraine rejected the price deal, saying it "won't fall into Russian gas trap".

But Mr Putin said on Wednesday that the offer was "to support the Ukrainian economy at a rather difficult time''.

The two sides have been locked in talks after Russia withdrew a deal to subsidise gas exports to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russia offered a discount of $100 for every 1,000 cubic metres of gas exported to Ukraine.

Deadline

But Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said it was "a trap". Ukraine wants a new gas deal based on "a contract, rather than on the basis of whether Russia likes the Ukrainian government or not", he said

Speaking in Moscow later on Wednesday, Mr Putin said: "We believe that our offer is more than in a partnership spirit, aimed to support the Ukrainian economy at a rather difficult time.

"But if our offers are rejected it means we will enter another stage. This is not our choice. We do not want it."

The European Union-brokered talks in Brussels come after Russia threatened to turn off the gas taps to Ukraine if Kiev did not pay for past deliveries.

However, Russia's deadline for payment has been repeatedly pushed back after Ukraine paid off part of the sum.

'Movement'

Before the export subsidy was cancelled, Ukraine's gas bill was heavily discounted by Russia at $268 per 1,000 cubic metres.

After the discount was withdrawn, the price went back up to $485.50 per 1,000 cubic metres, the highest in Europe.

Despite the sharp disagreements, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who is involved in the talks in Brussels, said he hoped the two sides would make progress in the next 48 hours.

"I can see movement on both sides, and both sides will need to continue to move,'' he told reporters.

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