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Yanukovych Says He Will Respect Current Russian Natural Gas Deal

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych says his government will respect an agreement on the purchase of Russian natural gas negotiated earlier this year, but will discuss gas issues when he travels to Russia August 15.

Mr. Yanukovych said whatever deal he works out for future natural gas purchases will be at an optimal price for Ukraine, and that any agreements will be transparent.

Natural gas has been a contentious issue between the two countries. Russia's state-run natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, temporarily cut supplies to Ukraine in January, in a dispute over a sharp price hike. The action also sharply reduced gas deliveries to the rest of Europe.

Under a deal that resolved the dispute, Ukraine pays $95 per 1,000 cubic meters for natural gas from Russia - nearly twice as much as before.

That deal has been extended through the third quarter of 2006, but tough negotiations are expected for the fourth quarter of the year and for 2007.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.