Ukraine will raise the cost of natural gas for households next month to unlock an funds from an international bailout, should the government fail to negotiate lower import prices, President Viktor Yanukovych said in an interview with foreign press.

“All we want is to have an average European price for imported gas,” Yanukovych told foreign journalists yesterday in his office. “Should we fail to get it, we will be forced to raise the domestic price.”

Ukraine wants to cut its gas imports to 27 billion cubic meters next year from an estimated 40 billion in 2011, lowering the price to $230 per cubic meter from next year’s expected average level of $415. Russia has rejected the demands, arguing that the terms of the 2009 agreement must be honored.

The IMF last year approved a $15.6 billion loan to Ukraine, the second in two years, after the economy contracted more than 15 percent. The IMF released $3.4 billion in two installments before freezing the next tranche, due in March, over the government’s failure to raise gas rates for households.

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