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...THREATENS TO CUT OFF GAS TO UKRAINE... Gazprom may halt gas deliveries to Ukraine by the new year if a new contract is not signed with Kyiv, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told Echo Moskvy on 13 December. Gazprom head Aleksei Miller issued a similar warning in an interview to be broadcast the same day on Russia's new English-language television channel, Russia Today. Kupriyanov accused Ukraine of reluctance to move toward "market principles in the gas sphere," adding that Gazprom "is prepared to compromise, but [such a compromise] must be adequate." Kupriyanov added that Gazprom is prepared to litigate in international courts if Ukraine siphons off gas transported via Ukraine without permission. "We have excellent lawyers," he said. Gazprom has been supplying natural gas to Ukraine under a barter agreement for $50 per 1,000 cubic meters. Gazprom is seeking to raise the price to $220-230 per 1,000 cubic meters, which is roughly the market price in Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 13 December 2005). BW

KYIV SAYS BIRD-FLU SITUATION IN CRIMEA REMAINS PROBLEMATIC. The Ukrainian Health Ministry said in a communique on 14 December that the situation with the bird-flu outbreak in Crimea detected earlier this month remains difficult, Interfax-Ukraine reported. By 14 December, mass deaths of poultry were registered in 25 settlements on the peninsula, including in 11 villages where tests confirmed that the infection was caused by the virus H5N1, which is also dangerous to humans. Meanwhile, Channel 5 reported the same day that mass deaths of poultry have also occurred in the village of Chervonyy Chaban in Kherson Oblast. Veterinarians reportedly say these deaths were not because of bird flu. Chervonyy Chaban is located some 20 kilometers from Syvash Bay, between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, where migratory birds stop over each autumn as they migrate. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS GAS TALKS WITH RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN ARE DIFFICULT. Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said at a cabinet meeting on 14 December that Ukraine is currently engaged in "very difficult negotiations" with Turkmenistan and Russia's Gazprom on gas deliveries, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yekhanurov was commenting on Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov's talks in Moscow on 12 December and in Ashgabat the following day. ITAR-TASS quoted President Viktor Yushchenko as saying on 13 December that Ukraine will now buy Russian gas for cash, not through barter transactions. Meanwhile, Gazprom deputy chief Aleksandr Medvedev said on 14 December that Russia is going to sell gas to Ukraine not for $160 per 1,000 cubic meter, as suggested by media earlier this year, but for $220-$230 per 1,000 cubic meter, reported. JM