Italian energy giant Eni, and France's EDF are poised to sign a joint oil and gas deal with the Ukraine worth $4bn.

Eni and EDF plan to explore a shallow shelf in the Western Black Sea which is estimated will produce up to three million tonnes of oil a year, according to UNIAN, the Ukrainian media agency.

"The agreement will be signed today," energy minister Eduard Stavytsky was quoted as saying in the report.

Eni has a 50% stake in the venture. EDF has a 5% stake, while Ukrainian energy firm Vody Ukrainy holds 35%, and another Ukraine firm, Chornomornaftogaz, has 10%.

The venture concerns a 1,400 square-km area in waters off Western Crimea, which includes the Subbotina oil license as well as the Pry Kerch block where several oil and gas prospects have been identified, according to a statement by Eni.

The venture will be the third largest energy project launched by the Ukraine this year, as it steps up efforts to gain greater energy independence from Russia.

At the beginning of November, the Ukrainian government signed a shale gas deal with Chevron for $10bn (£6.1bn, €7.3bn).

Previously, it closed a shale gas exploration deal with Royal Dutch Shell also worth about $10bn.

The latest deal comes off the back of a dramatic standoff between the European Union (EU) on the one hand and Russia on the other, regarding Ukraine's economic and political future.

Ukraine was due to sign a trade deal with the EU in Vilnius, Lithuania, on the 29 November but this was aborted; Russia's Vladimir Putin had described the deal as a "big threat" to Russia just days before.