Putin, Ukrainian President to Hold Talks

MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych will meet in Moscow on Monday to discuss energy cooperation but do not plan to sign any documents, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“The sides will discuss bilateral cooperation issues, including energy,” Peskov told RIA Novosti, adding that they are expected to touch upon Ukraine’s gas transportation system and Russia’s possible participation in a consortium managing it. The leaders are in particular expected to discuss the price for Russian gas supplied to Ukraine.

Yanukovych’s visit was initially planned for December 18, 2012, but was postponed due to uncoordinated technical details relating to the two countries’ energy cooperation.

The two leaders will also discuss integration of their countries’ nuclear power industry sectors and exchange opinions on “various integration processes.”

Ukraine has proclaimed a strategic course for Euro-integration. It plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union in late 2013.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have been in the Customs Union since January 1, 2012. The bloc allows unrestricted movement of capital, goods and services across the three states’ national borders. Moscow has repeatedly proposed membership to Ukraine, promising cheaper gas supplies in return.

Kiev is reluctant to become a full member, because such a deal would rule out signing a free trade agreement with the European Union. Kiev has proposed cooperating with the union under a “three plus one” format, which would not, however, imply full membership.

Yanukovych said Friday Ukraine is interested in finding a route toward integration with the Customs Union.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss bilateral gas agreements.

Ukraine has been trying to review the gas deal with Russia signed in 2009 by then-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who was later found guilty of abusing her power by signing the deal her country’s current leadership deems disadvantageous.

The deal ties the price of gas to that of oil, which has risen sharply since 2009, boosting Ukraine’s gas bill. Kiev insists the price and volume of its gas imports should be reduced.

Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz Ukrainy has repeatedly informed Russian energy giant Gazprom that it would reduce the amount of gas it buys from Russia to 27 billion cubic meters a year. That amount is just over half of what Ukraine is obligated to buy under the terms of the 2009 gas deal.

In January, Gazprom billed Ukraine for $7 billion worth of gas the country did not use in 2012, but Kiev rejected the bill as “unjustified.” Yanukovych said in February the country refused to pay the fine, but added that the sides were still negotiating the issue.


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