Ukrainian Journal reported that Ukraine and Turkmenistan postponed for about one month signing a 30-year natural gas supply agreement as Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov had delayed his visit to Ukraine.

Niyazov was supposed to show in Kiev in September to sign the agreement.

Ukraine plans to increase imports of gas from Turkmenistan to 60 billion cubic meters annually, up from 36 billion cu m currently, Aleksey Ivchenko, the chairman of Naftogaz Ukrayiny, said.

"The visit is expected in October and we plan to sign the 30-year agreement," Ivchenko said at a press conference.

The agreement is supposed to increase the position of Turkmenistan as Ukraine's largest source of natural gas as Kiev seeks to reduce dependence on Russia in energy imports, analysts said.

Russian gas giant Gazprom has been putting pressure on Ukraine over the past six months seeking to more than triple natural gas prices starting in 2006, a move that could cause problems for the Ukrainian economy.

Russia delivers about 23 billion cu m/year of gas to Ukraine as a payment for transit of 120 billion cu m of Russian gas to Europe via Ukrainian gas pipelines.

The agreement between Ukraine and Turkmenistan may trigger a negative reaction from Moscow, which also seeks to buy 60 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan starting in 2007.

Turkmenistan's annual gas output is about 60 billion cubic meters, but Niyazov has repeatedly assured both Moscow and Kiev that Turkmenistan is able to quickly double the output to meet growing demand from Russia and Ukraine.

All natural gas shipments from Turkmenistan are moved to Ukraine via Russian gas pipelines, which give Moscow leverage in its gas talks with Ukraine, analysts said.

However, the Ukrainian government is pushing for an international consortium for building a new gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, through the Caspian Sea, via Azerbaijan and Georgia and through the Black Sea, bypassing Russia, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko has said.


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