MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) – Russia and Ukraine have found ways to lower the price of Russian gas regardless of whether Ukraine joins the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine said Friday.
“The Russian and Ukrainian leaderships have found ways in which the price of Russian gas could be lowered, or, in other words, the gas contract could be revised and taken out of the context of Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union," Mikhail Zurabov told journalists.
Zurabov failed, however, to specify what kind of middle ground has been found. He said the sides plan to hold talks on Russian gas, and particularly on Ukraine’s gas debt, next week.
Russia has invited Ukraine to join the Customs Union, a concession necessary to get a discount on Russian gas. Ukraine has so far refused to do so, saying it just wants a fair deal.
Meanwhile, Zurabov encouraged Ukraine to join the Customs Union, saying the move will allow Kiev to enjoy the same Russian gas prices as other members do.
Russia and Ukraine have been in dispute over gas deliveries since the two states signed a contract in 2009. That contract contains a clause stipulating that Ukraine must pay for a set minimum of at least 33.3 billion cubic meters of gas even if the country didn't use the entire volume.
The contract also ties the price of gas to that of oil, which has risen sharply since 2009, boosting Ukraine's gas bill. Kiev claims the contract is unfair, and has insisted on reducing both the price and volume of its gas imports. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for exceeding her authority in signing that deal.
Last week, Russian gas giant Gazprom presented Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz Ukraina with a $7 billion bill for gas it did not use in 2012.
Speaking about Gazprom’s bill, Zurabov said: “It is a signal to look for a compromise,” adding that “there are no grounds to think that such a compromise will be found in court.”
Zurabov said Gazprom’s move was merely aimed at fulfilling the provisions of the contract and will not directly affect the Russian-Ukrainian gas talks meant to broker a new deal.