Putin, Yushchenko hold telephone talks on gas debt

Other News Materials 26 February 2008 18:55 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko in telephone talks Tuesday followed up on the proposed settlement of a gas debt dispute that could jeopardize future Russian fuel deliveries.

The conversation took place at the initiative of the Russian side, a Kremlin spokesman told the Interfax news agency Tuesday.

An agreement was reached for Ukraine to pay back over 1.5 billion dollars in debt as Yushchenko visited Moscow for emergency talks on February 12 to avert Russian energy giant Gazprom's threat to cut off gas supplies.

Putin told a press conference at the time that he "hoped the agreement would be put to paper and executed."

Ukraine has promised to pay back debt incurred last year and at the close of a visit by Ukraine's charismatic Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko last week claimed a breakthrough in the long-running dispute.

Russia has agreed to the elimination of a controversial middleman company, owned by Gazprom, a key condition for Ukraine in the countries energy trade relations.

The European Union, which receives 80 per cent of its gas imports via Ukrainian, has worried that the chronic disputes over energy prices imperil its energy security.

When in December 2005 Gazprom turned off the taps to Ukraine, the country retaliated by siphoning a portion of the gas destined for European consumers - spiking gas retail prices as far away as France.