Ukraine Rules Out Concession In Russian Energy Dispute

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Ukraine and Russia turned up the heat in an energy dispute Saturday as Kiev reiterated its refusal to accept Moscow's terms and the Kremlin appeared to snub a call for talks at a regional summit.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (c), seen during a CIS summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. The heads of state from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose association of ex-Soviet republics, ended the summit in the capital of Tajikistan by signing a declaration calling for peaceful conflict-resolution among member states and the creation of a free trade zone. At left is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at right is First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

Ukraine on Saturday rejected Russia's calls to cede half of its state energy company Naftogaz to Russian energy giant Gazprom in return for cheaper gas as the country's presidents attended a summit in Tajikistan.

"It will not happen," Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said categorically on the sidelines of a regional summit in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

"Any pressure on these issues, it's humiliating for us," Yanukovych said. "First, we are cornered, and then we are dictated terms. It's humiliating today, not for me personally, it's humiliating for the nation and I cannot allow it."

Ukraine had said Friday it wanted to hold separate energy talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit as Kiev pushed for a new deal on gas imports in the latest spat between the two neighbours.

But the Kremlin had said on Friday that no meeting with Yanukovych was scheduled and the Tajik foreign ministry told AFP on Saturday afternoon that Medvedev had already left Dushanbe.

Russia has offered to lower Ukraine's gas price if it dropped plans to establish free trade relations with the European Union and allowed Russian energy giant Gazprom to win control of half of Ukraine's Naftogaz company.

Ukraine argues that it now pays more than some richer European Union countries and that Russia's price terms are political, in the neighbours' second major clash over gas prices in three years.

Leaders of former Soviet states gathered in Dushanbe for the summit of the Commonwealth of the Independent States, a group including all ex-Soviet states except for the Baltic countries and Georgia.

Russia also announced plans to discuss future energy projects with members of Libya's transitional government.

"They suggested holding meetings. We invited representatives to Moscow on their request. We will discuss all this with them," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as telling journalists.

Medvedev also held bilateral talks with Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on Saturday after Russia expressed interest in a pipeline project aiming to pump Turkmen gas through Pakistan and Afghanistan to India. Berdymukhamedov is expected to visit Moscow in the near future.

Earlier this week, Berdymukhamedov said Turkmenistan had "reached a level of strategic partnership with Russia," in spite of previous rows over the price of gas.

Source: AFP