(RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's fuel and energy minister and the chief executive of Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom met in Moscow Wednesday to discuss gas cooperation, a company spokesman said.
Natural gas, an important factor for Ukraine's economy, has been a contentious issue between the ex-Soviet neighbors during Western-leaning president Viktor Yushchenko's time in office, reports Trend.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that at the talks in Moscow, Yuriy Boiko and Alexei Miller "considered the current issues of cooperation in the gas sector."
Boiko, a former head of Ukraine's state oil and gas firm Naftogaz, is a member of the country's new Cabinet led by pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych, who has close links with Ukraine's industrial leaders and is widely expected to pursue closer economic ties with Moscow.
At the moment, Ukraine is receiving a mixture of Russian and cheaper Turkmen gas for a price of $95 per 1,000 cu m under an agreement that ended a gas price spat with Russia in late 2005-early 2006. The price formula was based on a rate of $230 for Russian gas and $60 for the Central Asian republic's gas. But the agreement was only valid for the first half of 2006.
Russia's Gazprom is seeking to raise prices for Ukraine and other former Soviet republics to European levels, which was the reason behind the New Year dispute, when the gas monopoly suspended its supplies. Ukraine called the move blackmail, and Russia accused Ukraine of tapping gas intended for European markets.
In late June, Turkmenistan said it would cut off supplies of natural gas to Russia if a new gas deal with a new price of $100 per 1,000 cu m was not signed by September.
During talks with Ukraine in early July, Turkmenistan proposed that a contract be signed on its gas exports at $100 per 1,000 cu m from October, but Ukraine insisted on direct contracts for the second half of 2006 at $60 per 1,000 cu m.
Gazprom said early last month that its gas price for Ukraine would remain unchanged unless Turkmenistan increased its price.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Ambassador to Russia Oleg Diomin denied knowledge of the Ukrainian minister's visit to Moscow.
"Unfortunately, I have no information about Boiko visiting Russia," Diomin said. "Perhaps, he is making a private trip."
Ukraine's new premier, Yanukovych, is expected in Moscow next week.