Russia warned on Monday that talks to avert a trade embargo by Moscow against Ukraine were difficult and chances slim that such measures could be avoided when Kiev's free-trade pact with the European Union takes effect in January.
Following three-way talks in Brussels, Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev was asked whether a deal to satisfy Moscow's objections to the agreement could be reached before Russia imposed an embargo. He told reporters: "We have hope, although the work is progressing with difficulty."
"But we believe our combined efforts can succeed in achieving the result we want. There is a chance of that, although I wouldn't say it's very great," he said.
Nonetheless, he said Monday's talks had been conducted in a "positive" atmosphere. Officials would now work for about a month to narrow differences before a meeting of technical experts ahead of new ministerial talks early in November.
Asked if Russia was considering the same sanctions to Ukraine as it has applied to the EU, he replied: "In principle, the same."
Moscow has banned the import of food from the EU in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.