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Well stick to gas deal, says Russian PM
Journal Staff Report

MOSCOW, Feb. 20 - Russia and Ukraine will stick to a gas agreement reached earlier this month by the presidents of the two states, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said Wednesday after a meeting with Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko.

"We have confirmed our absolute commitment to the agreement reached by our presidents," Zubkov told reporters, according to RIA Novosti, Russias state-owned news agency.

Tymoshenko was seeking to renegotiate the agreement between Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Oleksandr Turchynov, the first deputy prime minister and Tymoshenkos closest ally.

In particular, Tymoshenko was apparently seeking to allow Ukraine greater control over joint ventures that are supposed to be created to replace controversial gas traders, RosUkrEnergo and UkrGaz-Energo.

The deal between Yushchenko and Putin anticipates creation of 50/50 joint ventures between Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company.

Following the meeting with Zubkov, Tymoshenko has been also meeting Putin late Thursday in his residence outside Moscow. On Thursday she was expected to meet Alexei Miller, the CEO of Gazprom.

Meanwhile, ahead of Tymoshenkos talks, Yushchenkos office issued a statement criticizing Tymoshenko's government for not implementing an agreement reached last week.

"The Ukrainian president is worried that up to today the government has done practically nothing to solve the gas problems, which represents a violation of the agreements reached by Viktor Yushchenko and Vladimir Putin," Yushchenko's office said.

Last week's agreement came after a threat by Russian energy giant Gazprom to cut supplies to Ukraine over an unpaid debt equal to $1.5 billion.

"What has been held up needs to be paid off otherwise our country will face challenges that will cost us dearly," Yushchenkos office said.

Yushchenko himself plans to visit Moscow on Thursday for a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Yushchenko is also supposed to meet Putin.

Tymoshenko originally was supposed to visit Moscow on January 21 for talks over natural gas issues, but was forced to postpone the trip at the request by Yushchenko.

Energy and Fuel Minister Yuriy Prodan, Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn and chairman of the national oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukrayiny Oleh Dubyna are among officials traveling with Tymoshenko to Moscow. (tl/ez)




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