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Russia, Ukraine to form gas transit joint venture by Jan 20


KIEV, January 12 (RIA Novosti) - RosUkrEnergo, a company transporting Central Asian natural gas to Ukraine, and state-owned Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz will establish a joint venture for gas transit by January 20, the Ukrainian Minister of Fuel and Energy said Thursday.

"By January 20 we plan to create the joint venture, and by January 25 to sign a contract and close the issue," Ivan Plachkov said.

Plachkov said Ukraine was concluding the preparation of a draft protocol for 2006 that would extend the 2001 gas agreement with Russia, the expiration of which led to a gas dispute that came to a head at the start of this month with Russia turning off supplies to its neighbor.

The minister said a delegation from Gazprom arrived in Kiev Thursday to discuss the issue.

Talks are underway with Moldova on supplying the country with 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas in 2006, which may be delivered by the joint venture, he said.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov had previously said the Russian-Ukrainian joint enterprise would be set up by February 1, in order to sell natural gas on Ukraine's domestic market.

RosUkrEnergo is owned half by Russian energy giant Gazprom and half by Austrian bank Raiffeisen.

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