Ukraine, Russia in crisis talks on gas, insurgency

Ukraine, Russia in crisis talks on gas, insurgency
A pressure gauge is seen at an underground gas storage facility in the village of Mryn, 120 km (75 miles) north of Kiev in this May 21, 2013 file photo.

KIEV - Ukraine's week of tough negotiations with Russia, aimed at ending a separatist insurgency and averting a gas cut-off, got off to a rocky start as a round of gas talks broke up early Tuesday without a deal.

The meetings in Brussels and Kiev are the first challenges for new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has vowed dialogue with Moscow to try to prevent the bitterly divided former Soviet state from splitting.

After seven hours, a marathon round of EU-brokered gas talks in Brussels broke up, but was set to resume later Tuesday or Wednesday.

"All points of the deal were negotiated, and discussions will resume," EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said after the talks ended in the small hours of Tuesday morning, adding that parties would now consult with their respective governments.

Washington expressed hope "significant progress" could be achieved with the flurry of diplomacy, including a meeting between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

The 48-year-old confectionery tycoon promised late Sunday to "this week" end fighting in Ukraine's economically vital eastern rustbelt that has claimed more than 200 lives.

And he affirmed, after being sworn in as Ukraine's fifth president on Saturday, that Kiev would sign a historic pact with the European Union that would finally wrest it out of Russia's orbit.

But, on the ground, the eight-week insurgency that Kiev and the West accuse Russia of orchestrating raged on unabated.

Ukrainian sources said that militants had staged a wave of failed attacks on the airport in the Russian border city of Lugansk.

Intense artillery fire and air bombardments also continued in the rebel Donetsk region stronghold of Slavyansk - an industrial city of 120,000 where many have been sheltering in basements for weeks.

And the Ukrainian army said pro-Russian gunmen had taken several of its soldiers prisoner.

"Some were out in the field, but others were abducted," military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov wrote in a Facebook post.

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