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Ukrainian PM acknowledges natural-gas debt to Turkmenistan

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Turkmenistan says Ukraine's debt currently stands at $158.9 million, and President Saparmurat Niyazov has urged Ukraine to pay up.

KIEV, March 29 (RIA Novosti, Vladimir Suprun) - Ukraine's prime minister said Wednesday his country's debt to Turkmenistan for natural-gas supplies stood at $68 million, and that it would be paid off by supplies of industrial goods.

"As of this moment, Ukraine's debt to Turkmenistan stands at $68 million," Yuriy Yekhanurov told a Cabinet session, adding that Kiev had already ironed out all its problems concerning natural gas supply obligations with Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan says Ukraine's debt currently stands at $158.9 million, and President Saparmurat Niyazov has urged Ukraine to pay up.

Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov earlier said Ukraine had no gas debt to Turkmenistan, while the country's prime minister accused Turkmenistan of delaying bilateral settlements on natural gas supplies.

Plachkov said there was a difference between obligations and debt, and that Ukraine paid $88 million as prepayment in January to Turkmenistan for natural gas as part of its obligations.

Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said his country had a commodities debt of $80 million, adding that Kiev would be ready to pay that part of the debt as soon as the Central Asian country sent Ukraine a list of goods and services.

Turkmenistan threatened to cut off supplies unless the Ukrainian side cleared the outstanding debt.

Turkmenistan became Ukraine's principal supplier of natural gas after Kiev signed an agreement with Ashgabat to increase Turkmen gas supplies, buying less from Russia.

In February, Ukraine acknowledged a $158.9 mln debt for gas supplies from Turkmenistan, including $143.3 mln for 2005.

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