Yushchenko Wants Cut In Gas Price

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, whose cash strapped country faces possible increases in the price it pays for Russian gas, made known on Friday that he thought there should be a price cut next year instead.

Yushchenko believes Ukraine should pay $100 per 1,000 cubic meters for Russian gas in 2009, his press secretary said on Friday.

Ukraine, which paid $179.50 in 2008, is engaged in difficult talks with Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom on prices and supply for next year.

Ukraine has paid Russia $1 billion out of debts totaling $2 billion for natural gas, Yushchenko said on Friday in separate comments. Gazprom has warned that it could cut off the ex-Soviet state if it failed to make good on all debts by year-end.

Yushchenko's press secretary said in a statement posted on the presidential web site that Yushchenko disputed suggestions by Russian officials that the price, now the subject of prolonged negotiations, should be pegged at $250 to $300.

"Such a price does not reflect the true state of affairs. … At the moment, specialists see the economically justified price at $100. This level corresponds to world principles of setting prices."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed in October on a three-year transition to world prices, though Gazprom has spoken of steeper increases next year.