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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow, Kiev Near Agreement

Russia and Ukraine moved closer to a consensus on oil prices Thursday according to Itar-Tass, defusing an explosive issue over which Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine had threatened to resign.

After one-and-a-half hours of talks with Russia's Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow, Kuchma told reporters that the two leaders had agreed on price levels that were "beneficial to both countries", the news agency said.

They did not specify the price, saying that talks concentrated on the volume of oil Russia will provide Ukraine. Chernomyrdin said supplies would not be artificially limited.

Before leaving Kiev, Kuchma had threatened to resign if Russia carried through a proposal to raise prices and supply Ukraine with only a fraction of its 45-million-barrel needs for 1993.

Kuchma arrived in Moscow on Wednesday night, a day ahead of President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine who will hold summit talks with President Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin on Friday.

They are expected to discuss the energy issue, as well as the fate of Ukraine's nuclear arms and how to split the former Soviet Union's debts and assets.

A rapprochement between the two leaders is essential if the Commonwealth of Independent States, which will hold a summit in the Belarussian capital of Minsk on Jan. 22, is not to collapse entirely.

Representatives of the two countrie's industrialist lobbies met separately in Moscow on Thursday to appeal to both governments to heal the wounds that have opened between them since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

"We should define and announce clearly at these talks that we do not plan to destroy each other", said Arkady Volsky, leader of Russia's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, at a news conference according to Reuters.

A joint appeal from the two groups urged that broken economic and financial ties between the countries should be restored quickly, or else "working enterprises and plant conveyors will halt, the furnaces will die out, transport will be paralyzed", Reuters reported.

"In this confrontation there can be no winners", the appeal said.

Early in January, Kiev announced that it would not abide by an agreement to let Russia pay its 16. 37 percent of the $80-billion debt in exchange for forgoing its share of Soviet properties abroad - the so-called zero option.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Shokhin, who is responsible for negotiating payment of Russia's debts with the Paris Club of creditor nations, said after meeting with the two prime ministers that Ukraine had not changed that position.

Shokhin said the Ukrainian delegation wanted to pay its debts separately from Russia. He said he had invited representatives from the Paris Club to join the talks in Moscow on Friday in an effort to resolve the deadlock.