The EU said Tuesday it will broker a fresh round of Russian-Ukrainian talks next week in Berlin to secure gas supplies for Kiev next winter and onward deliveries to Europe.
The talks, which opened March 20 in Brussels, come against the backdrop of a shaky ceasefire in a year-long war between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
"I can confirm the next round of trilateral talks between the Commission, Russia and Ukraine next Tuesday in Berlin," said Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU.
In what the EU hailed as a positive sign, Moscow agreed last week to extend the current deal expiring March 31 by three months and at an increased discount of 247.18 dollars per one thousand cubic feet.
Itkonen said that in Berlin, the two sides would discuss the issues set down in a joint statement following their Brussels talks in March.
That statement said Russia would consider granting Ukraine a discount and Kiev would seek to buy enough gas to fill its storage facilities while ensuring transit of supplies to Europe.
The statement added that the Commission would do its best to help cash-strapped Ukraine find "adequate financial support to purchase gas."
Russia accounts for about a third of the EU's gas needs, with half that amount transiting via Ukraine.
The EU hopes the deal it will end up brokering with Moscow and Kiev will last through to the autumn of 2016, when an international arbitration panel in Stockholm is due to rule on the dispute between the two sides that erupted after the Ukraine crisis.
After a pro-Russian leadership was ousted in Kiev and replaced by a pro-Western one, Russia decided to increase the price of gas sold to Ukraine.
Moscow then halted deliveries in June when Kiev refused to pay but they resumed after the EU brokered a deal in October to ensure supplies through the winter.