Ukraine's PM visits Turkmenistan for talks on natural gas supplies

Ukraine's prime minister headed to Turkmenistan on Wednesday to try to persuade a long-term deal signing on natural gas exports.

The Ukrainian delegation, led by Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, planned two days of what were expected to be tough negotiations in the Central Asian nation.

Earlier this month, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov said a 25-year contract for natural gas deliveries to Ukraine could only be reached in consultation with Russia, a transit country.

The Turkmen leader's statement sparked concern in Ukraine, which is trying to reduce its energy dependence on its former ruler, Moscow.

Niyazov also insisted that Ukraine first pay off its past debt.

Under an earlier agreement between the two ex-Soviet republics, Turkmenistan is to supply Ukraine with 36 billion cubic meters (1.26 trillion cubic feet) of gas in 2005.

The price is US$58 (Ђ48.30) per 1000 cubic meters (35,000 cubic feet) in the first six months, half of which was supposed to be paid in kind, and US$44 (Ђ36.64) per 1,000 cubic meters in cash starting July 1.

Yekhanurov's delegation includes Fuel and Energy Minister, Ivan Plachkov, along with other officials, lawmakers and business representatives, reports the AP.


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