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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES GAZPROM OF 'IRRESPONSIBLE APPROACH' IN GAS-PRICE DISPUTE... President Viktor Yushchenko said at a news conference in Kyiv on 20 December that Gazprom is taking an "irresponsible approach" in demanding that prices for gas it exports to Ukraine in 2006 be increased more than fourfold, Ukrainian media reported. "I cannot comment on the statements of Gazprom officials that the price [for gas] in Ukraine will be $220 or $230 for 1,000 cubic meters. Why not $500 or $700? You know, this is not a basis for a political dialogue," Yushchenko said. "Those people who believe it is possible to do it [introduce new gas prices] starting 1 January -- I wouldn't call them professionals," he added. The Ukrainian president signaled that should Gazprom raise gas prices, Ukraine might increase the rent it charges Russia for the use of land and the port of Sevastopol by the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. JM

...AS PREMIER SUGGESTS POTENTIAL INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION. Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov assured journalists in Kyiv on 20 December that Russia does not intend to revise the existing gas delivery and transit contract with Ukraine until 2012, Ukrainian media reported. "We have a contract [in force] and all issues, if there are any problems, can be settled in the Stockholm court [Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce]," Yekhanurov said. The institute in Stockholm considers international disputes in which both parties agree to its arbitration. Ukraine's Naftohaz Ukrayiny and Russia's Gazprom concluded a contract in July 2002 on Russian gas transit across Ukraine from 2003-2013. A 2004 addendum to the contract stipulates that in 2005-2009 the gas transit tariff is $1.09 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers, while the price of gas delivered to Ukraine as payment for transit is $50 per 1,000 cubic meters. On the other hand, Gazprom argues that, in accordance with an intergovernmental Russian-Ukrainian agreement of 2001, the volumes of shipped gas and conditions of payment for its transit are determined each year in a special intergovernmental protocol. Ukraine opposes signing such a protocol for 2006 with the higher prices proposed by Gazprom. JM

NEW UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON APPOINTED. President Yushchenko has appointed Yuriy Shamshur as Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Ukrainian media reported on 20 December. Shamshur had served as a deputy foreign minister since February. He will replace Mykhaylo Reznik, whom Yushchenko dismissed in June. JM