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Putin to lead government delegation to Ukraine

A delegation of Russian ministers...

A delegation of Russian ministers led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Ukraine on Wednesday to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues, including energy cooperation, with Ukrainian top officials, the prime minister`s spokesman said, according to RIA Novosti.

During the visit, Putin will meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, and take part in a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian economic cooperation committee, Dmitry Peskov said.

The talks are expected to focus on cooperation between Moscow and Kiev in the trade, economic, energy, transport, scientific, agricultural, aviation and space spheres. Russian-Ukrainian interregional cooperation is also on the agenda, Peskov said.

Several cooperation agreements are planned to be signed following the talks. The Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers will give a joint news conference summing up the results of their meeting.

The Russian delegation includes Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Minister for Regional Development Viktor Basargin, Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, as well as representatives of other ministries and the business community.

Gas issue

Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov said energy cooperation between the courtiers would "certainly be discussed in detail" during the talks.

According to Putin`s spokesman, Russian gas supplies to Ukraine may be discussed during the meeting of the intergovernmental economic cooperation committee.

"It is quite possible that this topic will be addressed if the Ukrainian side raises it," he said, adding that Moscow was not planning to discuss the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas.

Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Andryi Kluyev said on Tuesday that the Ukrainian side was going to address the gas price issue during the talks.

Ukraine`s national energy company Naftogaz receives a 30-percent discount for Russian gas in exchange for the Ukrainian government`s agreement to extend the lease on a Russian naval base in the Crimea until at least 2042, which was reached in April.

However, Azarov told RIA Novosti the price for Russian gas should reflect "changed realities."

Shmatko said in mid-October that Russia was considering Ukraine`s proposal that the gas pricing formula should be changed.

Azarov ruled out on Tuesday the possibility of merging Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine`s gas monopoly Naftogaz, an idea proposed by Putin in May and strongly criticized by the Ukrainian opposition.

Zurabov said Russian and Ukrainian officials would discuss "prospects for modernizing the Ukrainian gas transportation system, the development of the entire pipeline system, and the use of Ukraine`s transit capabilities."

Russian officials, including Putin, have said that Russia maintains its interest in modernizing Ukraine`s gas transportation system, while continuing the construction of the South Stream pipeline, intended to pump Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea bypassing Ukraine.

Ukraine has repeatedly called on Moscow to quit its pipeline construction plans, saying that investments in Ukrainian pipes would be much more beneficial.

Expected agreements

Five intergovernmental cooperation agreements and five commercial deals are expected to be signed during the Russian ministers` visit to Kiev, Zurabov said.

Azarov said agreements on the creation of joint aircraft construction and nuclear enterprises were among the deals planned to be signed.

Russia`s United Aircraft Corporation and Ukraine`s Antonov have agreed to set up a joint venture in October to produce Antonov aircraft.

Russia and Ukrainian companies Atomenergomash and Turboatom are also in talks on the creation of a joint nuclear venture.

Russian energy producer TVEL and Ukrainian company Nuclear Fuel are planning to sign an agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Kluyev said on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine may sign a new agreement on Russian oil transit soon.

"We are close to signing these agreements; negotiations are underway," he said.

The agreements are aimed at regulating guarantees and obligations on changes to oil transport tariffs through Ukrainian territory, which rose by 30 percent in January 2010, the Ukrainian first deputy premier said.

In 2009, the Russian and Ukrainian pipeline companies Transneft and Ukrtransnafta signed two agreements on the transportation of 1.5 million tons of Russian oil per quarter to two Ukrainian oil refineries in 2010 and the transfer of at least 15 million tons of oil a year through the Druzhba pipeline network.

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