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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine's Offer of Bombers To Pay Gas Debt Considered

KIEV -- Russia is considering Ukraine's offer to pay part of its energy debts to Russia with 10 strategic heavy bombers, Itar-Tass said.

The news agency quoted Russia's minister for relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States, Leonid Drachevsky, as saying Tuesday that Moscow would discuss Kiev's offer.

Interfax had earlier quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Olexander Kuzmuk as saying 10 of the 44 Tupolev-160 and Tupolev-95 bombers owned by Ukraine could be transferred to Russia. Kuzmuk said each plane would count for more than $25 million of debt, but did not give an exact figure.

A Ukrainian government delegation is scheduled to head to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss paying off a $1.8 billion gas debt with various commodities, a news report said.

The former Soviet republic is the world's sixth largest natural gas consumer and relies on Russia for 70 percent of its gas needs. However, Ukraine's cash-strapped government has been chronically unable to pay its gas bill in full, and the two countries have spent several years negotiating how to pay off the growing debt.

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin failed to fully resolve the issue of Ukraine's debt to Russia during a visit to Kiev earlier this month.

Stepashin said Ukraine owed $1.8 billion for Russian natural gas supplies. Ukrainian estimates have put the figure owed to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom at closer to $1 billion.

It is not the first time the Ukrainian government has proposed selling the bombers to Russia.

The 19 Tu-160 "Blackjack" bombers and 25 Tu-95 planes can all carry nuclear bombs and missiles over a long range, but have not flown since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

In line with the 1991 START-I nuclear disarmament treaty Ukraine must rid itself of all nuclear bombing capacity by 2001, a process it started last November.