Russian energy giant Gazprom has paid Ukraine in advance for gas transit to Europe for the rest of 2009, a source in a Russian business delegation on a visit to Kazakhstan said on Thursday, RIA Novosti reported.

"The limit for Gazprom`s advance payments has been used up in full. Naftogaz [of Ukraine] has already received prepayment for gas transit for the whole of 2009," the source said.

The source did not rule out that the financial position of Naftogaz could lead to a new gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine in the winter of 2009-2010.

Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine on January 1 over non-payment, and the sides` failure to reach a new gas deal. A week later, Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing gas intended for EU consumers and cut off supplies to the European Union via the country, prompting two weeks of gas shortfalls across much of Eastern Europe.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on Thursday for the CIS heads of government meeting, the government press service said. He will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, on the sidelines of the gathering.

Russia hopes that the meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian premiers will clear up the statement made by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week urging the review of the natural gas contracts signed in January.

The January standoff was resolved after negotiations between Putin and Tymoshenko resulted in the signing of a new gas agreement, which Yushchenko has often spoken out against.

Once allies, the Ukrainian president and prime minister have become fierce rivals over the past year and are both expected to run in presidential election in January next year.

RIA Novosti