Ukraine PM sends delegation to Moscow for gas talks
To resolve the situation concerning arrears
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko dispatched a delegation to Moscow on Monday to discuss outstanding payment arrears for gas and future supplies, a government statement said, according to Reuters.
Gas is only one of several disputes that have pitted Moscow against Kiev`s pro-Western leaders, swept to power by mass 2004 "Orange Revolution" street rallies.
The government statement was issued after Russian officials said Ukraine had arrears of $2.4 billion and President Dmitry Medvedev suggested Kyiv could be taken to court. Ukraine`s state oil and gas company Naftogaz puts arrears at $1.27 billion.
"At the request of Prime Miniter Yulia Tymoshenko, a delegation from Naftogaz is leaving urgently for Russia to resolve the situation concerning arrears and to take further decisions," the statement said.
It said Tymoshenko was "certain that by the end of the year all these issues will be settled."
Medvedev, speaking in Peru at the weekend on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, said the debt could be collected through "administrative" measures undertaken by Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) or through the courts.
"When I speak of legal measures, I mean the courts, in the framework of civil and legal relations between a company that supplies gas -- Gazprom -- and another that acquires it," he told reporters.
"That means using appropriate judicial procedures."
A Gazprom spokesman at the weekend said the company wanted to avoid supply cuts to Ukraine in 2009 but would not continue deliveries until a new contract was signed.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Tymoshenko`s "Orange Revolution" ally now turned rival, says it is up to the government to settle debts and agree on a 2009 price.
Ukraine pays $179.50 per 1,000 cubic metres for imports and talks on pricing for 2009 have been proceeding for months. Gazprom has suggested $400 from next year to reflect market prices, a level dismissed by Ukrainian officials as "political."
Presidential spokeswoman Iryna Vannikova said on Monday that the president wanted more forthright action from the government.
"The issue of setting a gas price is of critical importance now," Vannikova said in a statement. "In this context, the president would like to see a more active position from the government in talks with the Russian side."