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Ukraine’s PM to visit Russia for gas talks on Feb. 21-22

Ukraine’s outspoken pro-Western prime minister said on Wednesday she will visit Moscow on February 21-22 to discuss Russian natural gas supplies to the country - reports Ria Novosty.

Yulia Tymoshenko, who was reelected as premier by parliament in December, has repeatedly pledged to review gas deals with Russia, remove intermediary firms trading gas on the border, and raise Ukraine’s transit fee. “My visit to Russia will take place on February 21-22 at the invitation of Prime Minister [Viktor] Zubkov,” Tymoshenko told a news briefing. “We will discuss a wide range of issues, including uninterrupted gas supplies to Ukraine.” Tymoshenko said the Ukrainian government is looking into the possibility of switching to European-level prices for natural gas, but added that Russia should also heed Ukraine’s demands for a transit fee rise.

Earlier reports said Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbor plans to raise its transit fee to over $9 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers from the current $1.7. The bulk of Russia’s gas supplies to the European Union, which account for one quarter of the 27-nation bloc’s consumption, runs through Ukraine. A gas pricing dispute with Ukraine at the start of 2006 prompted Russia to briefly cut off supplies to the country. Europe-bound exports were also affected. RosUkrEnergo, which is the sole supplier of gas to Ukraine and is half-owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom, said earlier this month that Ukraine owed it $719 million. Debt talks with the Ukraine’s state oil and gas company Naftogaz failed to produce any agreement on Friday as a Naftogaz top manager stormed out of the negotiations.

In December, Gazprom and Ukraine agreed that a mixture of Russian and cheaper Turkmen gas sold via the intermediary firm will cost $179.5 per 1,000 cubic meter in 2008. But RosUkrEnergo later said it will sell Russian gas to Ukraine in January-March for $314 per 1,000 cubic meter to cover a shortfall in Central Asian supplies. (