Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was to hold rare talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday aimed at preventing a repeat of last winter’s gas crisis.
They will meet at the Livadia Palace in the Crimean resort of Yalta, the venue for the 1945 conference between Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill where the Big Three leaders redrew the postwar map.
While relations between Russia and pro-Western Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko have reached crisis point, Putin and Tymoshenko have repeatedly boasted of their cordial relationship.
Russia-Ukraine ties have been fraught since a dispute between the two countries over gas prices led to the cut-off of Russian gas to much of Europe for two weeks amid freezing temperatures last January.
Putin is bringing three of his most influential officials to Ukraine — deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, energy czar Igor Sechin and finance minister Alexei Kudrin, Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said.
Alexei Miller, chief executive of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, and energy minister Sergei Shmatko will also be present when talks get underway at around 1430 GMT, Ushakov added.
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