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New gas deal off Medvedev-Yanukovych agenda - energy minister

© RIA Novosti . Sergey Pyatakov / Go to the photo bankSergei Shmatko
Sergei Shmatko - Sputnik International
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The Russian and Ukrainian presidents did not discuss in Moscow on Friday the issue of the Russian gas price that Kiev believes is too high, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said.

The Russian and Ukrainian presidents did not discuss in Moscow on Friday the issue of the Russian gas price that Kiev believes is too high, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said.

"This matter was not discussed," Shmatko said after a meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Viktor Yanukovych, adding that it could be raised when a new Ukrainian government is formed.

Pressed by economic hardships in Ukraine, Yanukovych made clear he wanted to focus on boosting economic ties with Russia and winning a new gas deal critical for the country, which is the main transit hub on the way from Siberia to Europe.

Russian officials and gas executives have reacted skeptically to Yanukovych's gas overtures and rejected the idea of re-negotiating gas deals.

In a recent interview with the BBC Ukrainian service, Yanukovych said the price of natural gas supplied to Ukraine by Russia must be fair for Kiev, and the issue should be discussed in a broader context involving Ukraine's access to Russian and Central Asian gas deposits and the creation of a gas transportation consortium to manage the Ukrainian gas pipeline network.

Yanukovych said Ukraine wanted to be a full-fledged partner in all gas issues with both Russia and the European Union.

Yanukovych, who was inaugurated on February 25, said during his election campaign that he would seek better terms for Kiev in gas contracts signed with Moscow last year.

Russia and Ukraine have long fought over natural gas deliveries, jeopardizing supplies to Europe, which gets around a quarter of its gas from Russia. In the latest row at the start of 2009, Russia halted all deliveries via Ukraine's pipeline system for two weeks.

Last year's gas conflict was resolved when a deal on gas imports and transit was agreed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost to Yanukovych in the February 7 presidential election runoff.

Yanukovych also earlier pledged to involve Russia in a gas consortium to modernize and manage the Ukrainian gas transportation system to ensure uninterrupted gas supplies to Europe.

Ukraine's gas transportation system is Europe's second largest gas pipeline network and the main route for Russian natural gas supplies to European consumers. Back in early 2000, Kiev and Moscow discussed the possibility of creating a gas transport consortium with the involvement of European partners to manage and modernize Ukraine's Soviet-era gas pipeline network.

However, when West-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko came to power in Ukraine as a result of the "orange revolution" in 2004, the project was put on hold.

Russia has consistently tried to get a stake in the Ukrainian gas pipeline network to modernize the system and ensure uninterrupted gas supplies to Europe. Ukraine has so far resisted these attempts, saying this would jeopardize its sovereignty.

 

MOSCOW, March 5 (RIA Novosti)

 

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