Presidents of Russia and Ukraine are satisfied

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with a complex and controversial deal that ended a tense standoff over natural gas prices.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met in the Kazakh capital on the sidelines of the inauguration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev for a seven-year term.

The meeting came a week after the end of the natural gas dispute during which Russia had shut off supplies to Ukraine over its refusal to pay a more than fourfold price increase.

The dispute was resolved with a deal under which a middleman company buys Russian gas at the price sought by Russia, mixes it with cheaper gas from Turkmenistan and sells the gas to Ukraine for about double the price Ukraine had paid for Russian gas.

The arrangement "fully corresponds to market economy principles and takes into account the interests of both sides," Putin said after his meeting with Yushchenko. Russia had argued the price spike was justified to bring the price in line with world market conditions.

"We have reached a healthy compromise. Market order has been established," Yushchenko said. Ukrainian officials had said the country did not oppose meeting market-driven prices, but wanted an increase phased in gradually to cushion the shock to consumers.

In addition to damaging bilateral ties, the dispute over prices charged by Russia's gas monopoly unleashed a political storm in Ukraine, where parliament on Tuesday voted to dismiss the government for agreeing to the deal, the AP reports.


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