Ukraine has signed contracts on supplies of Central Asian natural gas in 2007, the country`s fuel and energy minister said Wednesday, according to RIA Novosti.

      Ukraine, which produces 20 billion cu m of natural gas per year and consumes some 78 billion cu m, currently imports a mixture of Russian and Turkmen gas. The price formula is based on a European rate of $230 for Russian gas and $60 for the Central Asian republic`s gas.

      "Ukraine has signed contracts on the supplies of 7 billion cu m of Uzbek gas, 8.5 billion cu m of Kazakh gas and 42 billion cu m of Turkmen gas," Yuriy Boiko said. 

      He said the diversification of sources of gas supplies would not affect relations with Russia, adding that Russia exported 85% of its natural gas (some 122 billion cu m) to Europe via Ukraine. 

      "This level of strategic partnership between our countries means that Russia also does us a favor by supplying Central Asian gas on time and in full," the minister said.

      Russia, which holds the world`s largest reserves of natural gas, is Ukraine`s main gas supplier. The issue of gas deliveries has become vital this year, following a price row in January, when Gazprom raised gas prices to world market levels and cut off supplies to its ex-Soviet neighbor. It later accused Ukraine of siphoning off Europe-bound transit gas.