Yushchenko Threatens Gas Deal

KIEV — A top aide to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Monday that the deal struck last week to restore Russian gas flows to Europe could be declared invalid if shown to have been concluded under pressure.

The deal between the two countries' gas companies — Ukraine's Naftogaz and Russia's Gazprom — was clinched last week after two long negotiating sessions led by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It provided for Ukraine to pay market prices with a 20 percent discount for 2009 — $360 in the first quarter against $179.50 last year — and eliminated intermediaries in trading as long demanded by Tymoshenko.

Bohdan Sokolovsky, the president's energy aide, said the outcome differed greatly from Yushchenko's proposals and that the deal's provisions were "done in haste with no analysis of the consequences."

In a statement on the presidential web site, he said: "The issue of using pressure must be investigated. The gas agreement between Naftogaz and Gazprom could be declared invalid if it was concluded under pressure."

Meanwhile, Naftogaz chief Oleh Dubyna is recovering in the hospital after doctors prevented a heart attack last week, a spokesman said Monday.