EU help

Meanwhile, the Russian president called for a greater international involvement in resolving its gas dispute with Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that the dispute between Russia and Ukraine on gas prices and debt payment had "gone beyond the bounds of bilateral relations and can be resolved only with participation of European countries."

"We are ready to look for any long-term solution. We hope Ukraine is ready to do the same and that our European partners will help bring about the necessary decisions," Medvedev said.

"We expect anyone interested in resolving the problem as soon as possible to come to the summit being held in Moscow tomorrow," he added.

Individual European governments have declined Russia's invitation to send their leaders to the Moscow "summit," with France saying that conditions would not be "ripe" until Russian gas flowed again through Ukraine.

Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, said an "exhausted" EU was trying to avoid "European delegations travelling to Moscow as hostages or supplicants".