Ukraine sure in stable price for Russian gas imports this year

Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov on Tuesday expressed confidence that the price Ukraine pays for natural gas imports from Russia would not be increased this year. Responding to a question about a possible price hike for Russian gas, Yekhanurov said it will "without doubt" stay the same, according to his spokesman Velentin Mandriyivsky.

On Monday, the Russian daily Kommersant quoted the deputy management board chairman of the state-controlled natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, Alexander Ryazanov, as saying that Ukrainian consumers would pay a higher price from July 1 US$130 ( 102) per 1,000 cubic meters. Ryazanov was apparently referring to plans to offset a major increase for Kazakh gas imports that Russia has agreed to, according to the Kommersant report.

In January Russia and Ukraine faced off in a bitter spat over natural gas prices a dispute that resulted in gas supplies temporarily being shut off to Ukraine.

The countries reached a deal under which Ukraine would receive all of its imported natural gas at US$95 per thousand cubic meters from a little-known intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo, that is owned jointly by Gazprom and another company whose owners were not identified until last month. Under the terms of the agreement Gazprom sells Russian and cheaper Central Asian gas to RosUkrEnergo, which then sells it at the blended price of US$95 ( 74) per 1,000 cubic meters to Ukraine.

A Gazprom spokesman, who asked not to be identified as the negotiations with Kazakhstan were ongoing, said that the price RosUkrEnergo pays for the Central Asian gas could change if Kazakhstan were to raise its prices. The comment appeared to indicate that such an increase could result in a price hike for Ukrainian consumers.

Yekhanurov also called for a 50 percent increase for gas prices for private consumers, saying such a move would prevent the excessive use of gas by some Ukrainians. This month, private consumers such as apartment residents have already experienced a 25 percent price increase. Ukraine is one of the biggest gas consumers in Europe, reports the AP.