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    Ukraine has started reducing its consumption of natural gas supplied to the country by Gazprom, the Russian energy giant said Thursday.

    (Recasts lead, adds details, background in paras 4-9)

    MOSCOW, October 4 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine has started reducing its consumption of natural gas supplied to the country by Gazprom, the Russian energy giant said Thursday.

    "On October 1, the daily volume of gas taken for Ukrainian consumers' needs was 158.1 million cu m; on October 2, it decreased to 142.9 million cu m, and October 3 it fell to 122.1 million cu m," Gazprom said in a statement.

    Gazprom notified its European partners Tuesday that Ukraine had a $1.3 billion gas debt saying it would have to cut deliveries to Ukraine if it fails to repay the sum in October.

    Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Ukraine's Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boiko met Wednesday in a situation reminiscent of a bitter price row in early 2006, when Moscow briefly cut off exports to its former Soviet ally stirring European consumers' concerns.

    Gazprom's press office said following the meeting that "an agreement was reached that Ukraine's current government will take the problem under its control and ensure payment of the debt before November 1."

    Ukraine's first deputy prime minister and finance minister said earlier Wednesday that his country had no state debt for Russian natural gas supplies. "I want to declare unequivocally ... that Ukraine has no debts to Gazprom," Mykola Azarov said. The Russian natural gas monopoly explained later Wednesday that the debt in question was owed by Ukrainian consumers.

    Gazprom's threat came following preliminary reports that pro-Western "orange" parties had secured enough votes in early parliamentary elections Sunday, and are set to forge a ruling majority.

    Charismatic democratic leader Yulia Tymoshenko, widely tipped to become premier, has already said Ukraine should review existing gas deals with Russia and that the sole supplier of Russian gas to the country, RosUkrEnergo, which is 50% owned by Gazprom, is not needed.

    Moscow and Kiev resolved their gas problem in 2007 under current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - whose party leads the polls with 34.4% of the votes, but who could be outseated by a larger "orange" coalition. But Gazprom plans further price increases next year.

    The gas price for Ukraine rose from $95 to $130 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007 after a price rise for Turkmen gas Russia re-exports to Ukraine. In 2008, gas prices could rise further to $143-$180.

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