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Putin refuses to cut price of Russian gas for Ukraine

15 july 2012, 17:25
0
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych. ©RIA NOVOSTI
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych. ©RIA NOVOSTI
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not budge Thursday during talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych aimed at easing a dispute over the price of Russia's gas, AFP reports.

"We have some issues on which we have not reached an agreement for the moment," Putin told a joint press conference after the talks in the Ukrainian resort of Yalta.

Putin alluded to Ukraine's repeated requests for Moscow to cut the price it charges Kiev for natural gas by saying that all existing contracts remain "in force".

He said Ukraine had already saved $8 billion (6.5 billion euros) thanks to a price reduction granted in 2010, and that the current price is comparable to what other European countries are charged.

The two leaders said they would continue to hold informal talks later in the evening.

Ukraine's near-total dependence on Russian energy has been one of the biggest drags on the ex-Soviet state's economy.

Russia has cut gas supplies to Ukraine twice in the past six years, and a 2009 dispute resulted in large swathes of Europe losing gas from trans-Ukrainian pipelines during some of winter's coldest weeks.

The two leaders met in Livadia palace, a former residence of Russia's tsars that hosted the famous Yalta Conference of 1945, where Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met to discuss the post-war reorganisation of Europe.

In 2010, Yanukovych, then newly arrived in office, persuaded Moscow to grant a 30-percent price cut in exchange for a 25-year extension of Russia's lease on the naval base in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol where its Black Sea Fleet is based.

The deal drew sharp criticism in Ukraine, where the opposition said it amounted to "high treason".

Despite the discount, Kiev complains the price is still too high and has sought for months to convince Moscow to lower it.

But in return, Russia wants Ukraine to give it control of its pipeline system or join Russia's customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus -- conditions Kiev has refused.

Putin said Thursday that Russia would not force Ukraine to join the customs union.

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