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Ukraine's new premier announces Moscow visit Aug. 15-16

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Ukraine's new prime minister said Thursday he intended to pay an official visit to Moscow next week, his first foreign visit since his appointment last Friday.
KIEV, August 10 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's new prime minister said Thursday he intended to pay an official visit to Moscow next week, his first foreign visit since his appointment last Friday.

"My visit to Moscow will take place on August 15-16," Viktor Yanukovych said, adding that natural gas deliveries would be among the issues on the table in Moscow.

The price of natural gas, an important factor for Ukraine's economy, has been a contentious issue between the ex-Soviet neighbors during Western-leaning president Viktor Yushchenko's time in office. Members of Ukraine's opposition have strongly opposed the pricing system agreed on at the beginning of the year, under which the country pays roughly double the former rate for gas supplies from Russia.

"The Ukrainian government is striving to find a common language with suppliers of hydrocarbons to Ukraine and to ensure that agreements between us are transparent," Yanukovych said. "The government is also working on the provision of gas resources and on optimal price for imported gas."

The newly-appointed prime minister is widely expected to pursue closer economic ties with Moscow.

Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boiko and the chief executive of Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, Alexei Miller, met in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss gas cooperation.

Currently, Ukraine is receiving a mixture of Russian and cheaper Turkmen gas for a price of $95 per 1,000 cu m under an agreement that ended a gas price spat with Russia in late 2005-early 2006. The price formula was based on a rate of $230 for Russian gas and $60 for the Central Asian republic's gas. But the agreement was only valid for the first half of 2006.

Russia's Gazprom is seeking to raise prices for Ukraine and other former Soviet republics to European levels, which was the reason behind the New Year dispute, when the gas monopoly suspended its supplies. Ukraine called the move blackmail, and Russia accused Ukraine of tapping gas intended for European markets.

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