Tymoshenko Says Ukraine Has Paid Up

ReutersViktor Zubkov and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko giving a toast, after meeting to discuss gas debts.
KIEV -- Ukraine has paid off its debts to Russia for its gas imports, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Monday at a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.

A dispute over Ukraine's gas debts caused export monopoly Gazprom to cut supplies briefly in early March, threatening deliveries to European Union states.

"We have sent the last payment, which completely settles the accumulated debt for natural gas. Right now, one can say that Ukraine has completely accounted for its obligations," Tymoshenko said at a meeting with Zubkov.

Zubkov said settling the debts opened the door for talks on longer-term supply contracts, but did not give any details. Neither prime ministers said how much the debt amounted to in total.

Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz Ukrainy and Gazprom signed a 2008 supply contract earlier this month, setting the price at $179.5 per 1,000 cubic meters for volumes of 50 billion cubic meters over the course of the year.

Tymoshenko told journalists that the countries would seek "to create a trade zone" between them in accordance with World Trade Organization rules and norms, as Ukraine has already joined the trade bloc and Russia is seeking entry, Interfax reported.

The countries also agreed to resume production of the An-124, or Ruslan, the largest airplane ever mass-produced, RIA-Novosti reported, citing the prime ministers of both countries. Global demand for the airplane is "colossal," Zubkov said, the news agency reported.

Production of the Ruslan, which first flew in 1982, will restart in the third quarter, RIA-Novosti said. The aircraft can carry 150 tons of cargo more than 3,000 kilometers without refueling.