Tymoshenko Accuses Kiev, Moscow Of Misleading Public Over Gas Prices

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko on Monday accused Ukrainian and Russian officials of misleading the public by telling them the price of gas would stay unchanged this year in a bid to win political capital.

Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, said last week that it would maintain the price of natural gas for Ukraine at $95 per 1,000 cubic meters through Dec. 31.

"It is a political deception .. the de facto gas price has already been increased," Tymoshenko told journalists, citing unidentified sources in the Russian energy industry.

Tymoshenko did not say what the new price was, but said Moscow had agreed to let Kyiv wait to pay the difference in 2007. She called the move an attempt to build up support for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who is perceived as more pro-Russian than President Viktor Yushchenko.

Yanukovych took office in August, and securing a good gas deal for Ukraine has been one of his top tasks.

Ukraine saw a nearly twofold gas price increase in January after a bitter dispute with Moscow. The Russian company briefly turned off the taps to Ukraine at the height of winter, triggering supply problems in other European countries that receive Russian gas via Ukrainian pipelines.

As part of the deal that resolved last winter's fuel dispute, Ukraine agreed to receive a mix of more expensive Russian gas and cheaper Turkmen imports at a price of $95 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Pressure to increase the price rose last month after Turkmenistan hiked the amount Russia pays for the gas it buys and then sells on to Ukraine.

Source: AP