EU's top energy official cautiously optimistic of Russia-Ukraine gas deal as new talks near


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BRUSSELS — The European Union's top energy official says he's cautiously optimistic about chances of a deal to secure gas supplies this winter for Ukraine and Europe as he prepares for new talks with Kiev and Moscow.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger plans to meet the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers and gas company chiefs in Brussels next Tuesday — part of a quest to resolve the two countries' dispute over Ukraine's unpaid gas bills and the gas price charged by Russia.

On Sept. 26, Oettinger proposed a "winter package" under which Ukraine would repay $3.1 million in debts to Russia and get guaranteed gas deliveries through the harsh winter, leaving the deeper dispute over gas prices to ongoing arbitration proceedings.

Oettinger said Thursday he'll be in Kiev on Sunday and Monday.

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