The natural gas price for Ukraine`s population will be 339 hryvnias (about $68) per 1,000 cubic meters, the country`s prime minister said Wednesday, according to RIA Novosti.

      Ukraine, which produces 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, and consumes some 78 billion cubic meters, currently imports a mixture of Russian and Turkmen gas. The price formula is based on a European rate of $230 per 1,000 cubic meters for Russian gas, and $60 per 1,000 cubic meters for the Central Asian republic`s gas.

      "The price for the population will be 339 hryvnias," Viktor Yanukovych said, opening a government meeting. "For us it`s a matter of principle that the price for self-produced gas should be objective."

      In July 2006, gas prices for Ukraine`s population were raised to $81-88 per 1,000 cubic meters, from $44-48 per 1,000 cubic meters.

      "We have to normalize the situation with Ukraine`s own [gas] production, so that Naftogaz manages national resources and the population uses them," Yanukovych said.

      "Imported gas will be used in industry and to provide for a small part of the population`s needs," he said, adding that the increase in gas production and the allocation of state funds for energy saving technologies are the government`s policy priorities.

      Russia, which holds the world`s largest reserves of natural gas, is Ukraine`s main gas supplier. The issue of gas deliveries became vital this year following a price row in January, when Russian energy giant 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.