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Putin, Yushchenko Agree Not to Politicize Natural Gas Dispute


Russian President Vladimir Putin says he and Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, in a telephone conversation, have agreed not to politicize the dispute between their countries over the price of Russian natural gas supplies.

Mr. Putin spoke to reporters in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi Friday after a telephone conversation with Mr. Yushchenko. The Russian leader said Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuri Yanakhurov will be in Moscow Monday to discuss the issue.

Ukraine now pays $50 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, in exchange for allowing Russia to move gas through a Ukrainian pipeline to the West.

Russia wants to charge the market rate, about $230, next year. Mr. Yushchenko has said the gas prices should not be used for political pressure. He said Ukraine charges much less for transit than Poland and Germany.

In Kiev, Mr. Yushchenko said the sooner gas prices are liberalized, the sooner Ukraine can be a competitive buyer, but that it must happen gradually.

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