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Russia postpones arms talk with US

Ukrainians charge their devices, use the internet and warm up inside a mobile heating point set up in a town outside Kyiv on Monday. (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

MOSCOW/KYIV — Russia announced on Monday that it was postponing highly anticipated arms control talks with the United States, scheduled to take place in Egypt despite tensions over the Ukraine conflict.

"The session of the bilateral coordinating committee on the Russian-American START Treaty, previously scheduled to take place in Cairo between Nov 29 and Dec 6, will not take place on the dates indicated," a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told state-run news agency TASS. "The event is postponed to a later date."

The United States had said this month that it expected to meet with Russia soon to discuss the possible resumption of inspections under New START, a key nuclear disarmament treaty between the two countries.

Moscow announced in August that it was suspending US inspections of its military sites under the treaty, in response to US obstruction of inspections by Russia.

Signed in 2010, New START limited the arsenals of the two countries to a maximum of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads each.

Before the announcement, a US envoy stressed that Moscow and Washington have ways to manage nuclear risks at the level of intelligence agencies.

Elizabeth Rood, charge d'affaires of the US embassy in Moscow, said in a video on RIA's Telegram channel: "The United States has channels for managing risk with the Russian Federation, particularly nuclear risks and that was the purpose of CIA director Burns' meeting with his Russian counterpart."

CIA director William Burns this month met with Sergey Naryshkin, head of Russian foreign intelligence.

Dealing a blow

On the energy front, European Union governments were dealt another blow as they failed to agree on Monday on a price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil amid deep divisions within the bloc.

"There is no deal. The legal texts have now been agreed, but Poland still can't agree to the price," one diplomat said. No new date for talks has been set yet, diplomats said, even though the price cap mechanism is to enter into force on Dec 5.

Before the EU meeting, the Kremlin had emphasized that Moscow would not trade oil or gas with those countries that introduce the price cap.

As the energy crisis bites, Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz has asked the United States Agency for International Development to help with additional natural gas volumes for the heating season, Oleksiy Chernyshov, the company's chief executive, said on Monday.

Snow has been falling for several days in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, a city that had 2.8 million residents before the conflict, as people struggle with disruptions to electricity supply and central heating.

According to a Reuters report, the US was expected to announce new aid on Tuesday to help Ukraine restore electricity.

More supplies for Kyiv are also coming from some Baltic and Nordic nations, after seven foreign ministers traveled to Kyiv on Monday to show support for Ukraine.

The visit by the officials from Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden precedes a meeting of NATO military alliance foreign ministers in Bucharest on Tuesday and Wednesday.