Kiev Seals Gas Pact With Turkmenistan

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian government settled a dispute with Turkmenistan over natural gas supplies, debts and payments, allowing direct deliveries of Turkmen gas to Ukraine, which imports about 80 percent of its gas.

Turkmenistan has not directly supplied gas to Ukraine since January, said Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov. Instead Turkmen gas has come through RosUkr-Energo, a Swiss gas trader, which in turn bought it from Gazprom, Dmytro Marunich, spokesman for Ukraine's state-owned gas company, said Thursday in Kiev.

Ukraine and Turkmenistan "settled disputable questions in a natural gas agreement,'' Yekhanurov said in remarks broadcast on television.

Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Russia have been entangled in a gas dispute since last year, after Gazprom, which supplies about one-quarter of the gas consumed in Europe, decided to raise prices for Ukraine. Ukraine refused to pay, and gas supplies to some European countries fell as much as 40 percent in the first two days of this year when Gazprom stopped gas deliveries to Ukraine.

Gazprom officials said last month that Ukraine took some gas pumped through Ukrainian pipelines for clients in Europe. Gazprom ships about 80 percent of its gas exports to Europe through Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials, including spokesmen at Naftogaz Ukrainy, the state-run gas company, denied Gazprom's accusations. "There has been no unauthorized diversion of gas," Ukrainian Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov said Jan. 2. He said Ukraine was using its own gas and fuel from Turkmenistan "in strict compliance with the signed contract."

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said Feb. 17 that Ukraine owed his country $159 million for earlier gas supplies, complicating Ukraine's effort to ensure gas prices for this year.

The Ukrainian government denied it owed the money. It planned to sue Turkmenistan at the Stockholm International Court if it refused to renew direct shipments and if it raised gas prices, Naftogaz CEO Oleksiy Ivchenko said last month.

Ukraine will reduce its natural gas consumption 35 percent by 2030 and import no more than a quarter of its needs, Plachkov said Wednesday.

Source: The Moscow Times