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Russia's Gazprom to Further Cut Gas Supplies to Ukraine

The government of Ukraine will meet Wednesday to consider options in the face further reductions in natural gas deliveries from Russia. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports that Russia's state-run energy giant, Gazprom, is assuring customers in Europe that their supplies will not be affected.

Speaking at a morning news conference in the Russian capital, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the company would reduce Ukraine's gas supplies by another 25 percent Tuesday evening. It follows a similar cut on Monday.

Kupriyanov says the Gazprom decision is based on lack of progress in Russian-Ukrainian talks and the absence of signed contracts with Ukraine's Naftogaz energy company.

Kupriyanov said gas supplies which transit through Ukraine to Europe will remain at full capacity, nearly 357 million cubic meters, per day.

On Monday, Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchynov accused Russia of failing to pay his country as much as $700 million in pipeline transit fees for gas deliveries to Europe.

The energy advisor for Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, parliamentarian Oleksiy Hudyma, says his country is fully prepared to pay for the gas it consumes. But he says there is no one to pay, because Gazprom is refusing to sign a contract that would eliminate intermediaries.

In remarks to VOA, Hudyma noted the presidents of Ukraine and Russia agreed last month to direct deliveries of gas.

The energy advisor says there are two intermediaries, which the government and people of Ukraine do not want - RosUkrEnergo and UkrGazEnergo. He says these companies have taken billions of dollars out of the Ukrainian economy in recent years. Hudyma accuses Russia of being less prepared for talks than Ukraine.

Gazprom owns 50 percent of RosUkrEnergo, a company registered in Switzerland. The other half is owned by two Ukrainian businessmen. UkrGazEnergo is joint venture between Ukraine's biggest gas supplier, Naftogaz of Ukraine, and RosUkrEnergo.

The Tymoshenko government says the arrangements are costly, not transparent, and corrupt.

Meanwhile, the gas issue has become a political football in Ukraine. The opposition Regions Party issued a statement on its website accusing the Tymoshenko government of excessive ambition, which Ukrainians will pay for through closed factories, unemployment, and cold homes.

Oleksiy Hudyma says the previous government of Viktor Yanukovcyh, the head of the Regions Party, did not leave Ukraine with substantial energy reserves. But Hudyma notes that temperatures are unseasonably warm, and Ukrainians have the discipline to see through this latest energy crisis.

In 2006, European gas deliveries suffered after Russia cut Ukraine's supplies during a debt dispute.