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Ukrainian, Russian PMs to meet on natgas
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Nov. 14 Ukraine and Russia will discuss next years natural gas supplies, prices and payments at a meeting on Nov. 19, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Saturday.

Tymoshenko will meet her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a special bilateral economic and trade commission that is due to get together in Yalta for the talks.

"We will continue to hold constructive talks with Russia...on how to formulate gas prices for Ukraine," Tymoshenko said during a meeting in Severodonetsk in southeastern Ukraine.

Ukraine transits around 80% of Russia's Europe-bound gas. Russia, which supplies about one fifth of Europe's gas, shut down supplies via Ukraine's pipeline system in January following a dispute with Kiev over unpaid debt. The conflict was resolved January 19, when Putin and Tymoshenko had agreed to establish a formula setting gas prices.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian official appealed Friday for the European Union to provide assistance, including finances, to Ukraine to make sure no gas supply dispute take place in January 2010.

"We call for the European Union to actively join in a package of preemptive measures, including financial assistance, to ensure uninterrupted transit of energy resources through Ukraine," said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the European Union, AFP reported.

The calls comes days after Putin had made a warning to Ukraine, saying Moscow would cut supplies should Kiev attempt to remove Russian gas from pipelines without paying.

Chizhov said President Dmitry Medvedev would press this issue at the EU-Russia summit in Stockholm next week.

Chizhov said Ukraine was dragging its feet on liberalizing its gas market and was unlikely to meet International Monetary Fund demands to increase domestic tariffs any time soon.

"It would be out of the question to expect one of the presidential candidates in Ukraine to take this step lightly" on the eve of the election scheduled for January 17, he said.

He said Ukraine has gas reserves stored underground that are almost as large as the total reserves of all EU countries combined, but questioned whether Kiev would use them to ensure uninterrupted transit to Europe.

"Either this will be used in the interests of transit, or it will be used in the interests of satisfying its own demand, at the expense of transit," Chizhov said. "This is the key question and it is primarily political."

France's Minister for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche said during a visit to Kiev that a new crisis would be in no one's interests.

With the global economic crisis "the level of energy consumption has dropped, prices have dropped and competition is rising," AFP quoted Lellouche as saying. "So I don't see where the interest is in a new gas crisis at the moment." (sb/afp/ez)




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