Ukraine May Raise Transit Fee

KIEV -- Ukraine told Russia on Wednesday that it could charge more for Russian gas transit to Europe if Moscow imposed steep gas price increases, raising the prospect of another gas dispute between the two countries.

Gazprom has agreed to increase its current $100 rate per 1,000 cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan by 30 to 50 percent from next year.

Analysts say that could increase prices by 40 percent for Ukraine, a major consumer of Turkmen gas, to a level experts say the Ukrainian economy would have difficulty sustaining.

"It is important for us to use our arguments as one of the top gas-transit states during talks. The changes in gas prices should no doubt be linked to our arguments about the levels of transit fees via Ukraine," the country's economy minister, Anatoly Kinakh, told reporters.

Gazprom declined to comment.

Gazprom and Ukraine are holding difficult talks on next year's gas prices, which Gazprom has said can only be determined after it reaches a supply deal with Turkmenistan.

The gas market and analysts closely follow pricing talks between Moscow and Kiev because previous disputes have led to disruptions in Russian gas supplies to Europe, as Ukraine accounts for 80 percent of Russian gas transit.

Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer, provides Europe with one-quarter of its needs.