Ukraine, Russia again at odds over gas: report

12th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia and Ukraine risk a new gas conflict similar to the 2009 standoff that cut supplies to EU states following a failed summit between their presidents, a report said Friday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych failed to make any headway Thursday at a summit in Sochi on a pricing dispute that threatens to disrupt supplies to Western Europe, the Kommersant daily said.

"We are morally preparing for a possible repeat of the gas war," Kommersant quoted an unnamed official in Kiev as saying.

The January 2009 gas cut-off ended with Kiev signing a 10-year contract with Russia's Gazrom that it is now trying to re-negotiate because it is being charged more than some EU members.

Russian news reports said Gazprom was willing to lower the contract price in exchange for a merger with Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogas -- the Kremlin has backed such an alliance in the past.

But Ukraine has reportedly balked because this would give Russia direct control of the former Soviet republic's domestic gas transmission network.

"The gas transmission network and Naftogas are the basis of Ukraine's sovereignty," Kommersant quoted another Ukrainian government official as saying.

"We do not trade away our sovereignty for cash," the Ukrainian official said.

Medvedev and Yanukovych were shown meeting briefly Thursday on Russian state television as they headed into their talks but no statement was issued by either side after the talks were over.

Kommersant said Yanukovych had hinted to a group of reporters as he headed into the meeting that he was ready to take Russia to court over the gas dispute.

The Ukrainian president said the two sides should try to "settle on gas prices without going to court," Kommersant said.

Russia hoped that Yanukovych would embrace strong relations with Moscow after defeating the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2010 elections but now appears to feel snubbed by his pursuit of EU integration.

© 2011 AFP

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