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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Church Suggests Ukraine Gas Deal

MTThe Russian Orthodox Church has asked for cheaper gas for Ukrainian chemical firms, which back the local church.

The Russian Orthodox Church made a request to the government that it lower gas prices for Ukrainian chemical companies, saying it was a "sensible initiative" to assist the companies, which help the Ukrainian church.

The request was made in a letter from Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the church's department for cooperation, to Gazprom's chairman, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.

The letter said the head of the Ukrainian Union of Chemists, Alexei Golubov, had requested Patriarch Kirill's help in the matter. The letter, published on the web site of Ukraine's Unian news service, calls on Zubkov to "keep in mind the substantial help given by the Ukrainian chemical industry to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate."

In the first quarter, Russia raised gas prices for Ukraine to $306 per 1,000 cubic meters, from $208 in the fourth quarter of last year. The Ukrainian chemical firms need prices to fall so they can compete with Russian chemical firms, which get cheaper gas.

Before the crisis, the chemical industry accounted for 8 percent of Ukraine's gross domestic product.

Last year, Kirill made a much-heralded trip to Ukraine, where he tried to heal a schism between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate and that under the Kievan Patriarchate. The latter split off from the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1990s. During the trip, Kirill proposed taking on Ukrainian citizenship so he could spend as much as half a year there to maintain religious influence.

"We're not lobbying here. … We passed on the request, considering that it looked reasonable enough," said Pavel Shashkin, secretary of Kirill's economics and ethics council.

Currently, Ukrainian chemical companies are at a standstill, "people are sitting around without work because they are unable to cooperate with Russian companies in terms of processing gas," he said.