Ukrainian Delegation Coming For Gas Talks

APTymoshenko, right, speaking with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller in Kiev in July.
KIEV -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko dispatched a delegation to Moscow on Monday to discuss gas debts and future supplies and sought Russian permission to delay payment on gas in storage not yet used.

Russian officials said Ukraine had arrears of $2.4 billion, and President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Kiev could be taken to court. Ukraine's state oil and gas company Naftogaz puts arrears at $1.27 billion.

"At the request of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a delegation from Naftogaz is leaving urgently for Russia to resolve the situation concerning arrears and to take further decisions," a government statement said.

It said Tymoshenko was "certain that by the end of the year all these issues will be settled."

"We would like to secure a small delay in payment of a few months for this gas in storage and not yet consumed," her press service later quoted her as telling coal industry officials.

Medvedev, speaking in Peru over the weekend on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, said the debt could be collected through "administrative" measures undertaken by Gazprom or through the courts.

"When I speak of legal measures, I mean the courts, in the framework of civil and legal relations between a company that supplies gas -- Gazprom -- and another that acquires it," he told reporters.

"That means using appropriate judicial procedures," he said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says it is up to Tymoshenko's government to settle debts and agree on a 2009 price.

Ukraine pays $179.50 per 1,000 cubic meters for imports, and talks on pricing for 2009 have been proceeding for months. Gazprom has suggested $400 from next year to reflect market prices, a level dismissed by Ukrainian officials as "political."

"The issue of setting a gas price is of critical importance now," presidential spokeswoman Iryna Vannikova said in a statement. "In this context, the president would like to see a more active position from the government in talks with the Russian side."