SOCHI, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope on Friday that a temporary agreement to end a long-running gas dispute with Ukraine would be reached as early as next week.
Russia and Ukraine are expected to hold the final round of talks, mediated by the European Commission, in Brussels on October 29 to resolve the standoff over Ukraine's unpaid gas bills and the price Kiev will pay for Russian gas supplies during the upcoming winter.
"I sincerely hope that the gas problem will be resolved very soon," Putin said at the meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
"Russia will never be a cause of any crisis [related to gas supplies]. We will strictly and timely respect all our commitments on gas supplies in line with existing contracts," Putin said.
Earlier on Friday, the Russian president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the importance of reaching an agreement on the gas issues on October 29 and expressed hope that the forthcoming meeting would bring results, according to the Kremlin press service.
The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine became especially acute when Russian energy giant Gazprom switched Ukraine to a prepayment system for gas supplies in June over Ukraine's gas debt of more than $5 billion.
In September, Russia and the European Commission proposed the so-called winter package, according to which Ukraine should pay $3.1 billion of its debt to Russia by the end of the year in exchange for gas deliveries during the winter period. Following the trilateral Russia-Ukraine-EU talks in Brussels on October 21, Ukraine had agreed to the temporary price of $385 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas during winter.