President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the government would if necessary help Russian energy giant Gazprom meet its commitments to Ukraine under the new gas deal agreed by the two countries earlier this month, RIA Novosti reports.

"Ukrainian President raised only one issue today - Russia's commitments, including to [Ukraine's gas] balance," Putin told a news conference in the Kazakh capital Astana following talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko. "I will instruct the government, if necessary, to help Gazprom fulfil its obligations," he said. There was currently no need for any such government help, he also said.

Under the new gas deal, Gazprom is to sell Central Asian gas to a intermediary, RosUkrEnergo, which is Swiss-based but owned half by Gazprom and half by Austrian bank Raiffeisen. RosUkrEnergo will then sell gas on to another joint venture in Ukraine, to be set up by RosUkrEnergo and Naftogaz state enterprise.

Putin also said that he expected the acting Ukrainian prime minister, Yuriy Yekhanurov, in Moscow soon. The Ukrainian parliament dismissed Yekhanurov's government Tuesday, amid concerns over the gas deal.

"We have invited Ukraine’s PM to visit Moscow in the near future," Putin said.
President Victor Yushchenko in turns stated that Russian-Ukrainian natural gas agreement had been drafted professionally and his country would honor its commitments to both Russia and the West.

"Ukraine will not violate a single letter of our agreements with either Russia or [our] Western partners," he said before adding that the Ukrainian parliament's decision to dismiss the government Tuesday had not been connected with the gas agreement.

Speaking after talks with Vladimir Putin, Yushchenko said the issue should not be politicized because that would endanger "the excellent result" that had been achieved. The president was referring to the interim agreement that put an end to a bitter dispute between the two countries under which Ukraine will buy natural gas at $95 per 1,000 cubic meters for the next six months.


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