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RUSSIA TO PAY MORE FOR UZBEK GAS IN 2006. Aleksei Miller, chairman of Russia's Gazprom, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov reached an agreement on 20 January for Russia to buy 9 billion cubic meters of Uzbek gas in 2006 at a price of $60 per 1,000 cubic meters, Reuters reported. The price represents a 25-percent increase on Russia's 2005 gas purchases from Uzbekistan, which totaled 8 billion cubic meters. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that Gazprom will sell up to 7 billion cubic meters of the Uzbek gas it buys in 2006 to Rosukrenergo, a company half-owned by Gazprom, for subsequent sale to Ukraine as part of a complex deal between Russia and Ukraine on 2006 gas shipments. President Karimov's press service announced that Gazprom, which plans to increase the throughput capacity of the Central Asia-Center pipeline that runs through Uzbekistan, intends to invest up to $1.5 billion in Uzbekistan's energy sector in the future, Interfax reported. DK

KYIV ASKS MOSCOW TO DELAY SIGNING 2006 GAS CONTRACTS. Ukraine on 21 January asked Russia to reschedule the signing of gas accords between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny for 25 January, Ukrainian and international media reported, quoting Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov. Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny planned to sign gas-supply contracts for 2006 on 21 January. Those contracts result from the 4 January framework agreement between them and the Swiss-based intermediary RosUkrEnergo (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 10 January 2006). Naftohaz Ukrayiny was also expected to sign an accord with RosUkrEnergo on the creation of a joint venture for managing gas sales in Ukraine. "Unfortunately, we have been unable to get the documents ready," Yekhanurov said. "The first question is the price of gas, how prices are established, and how long they are to remain in place." Meanwhile, some media in Ukraine and Russia have speculated that the delay might have been provoked by Turkmenistan, which allegedly has so far failed to confirm prices or volume of its gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES PRE-ELECTION STABILITY. President Viktor Yushchenko on 22 January appealed to political rivals to ensure stability in the country in the ongoing campaign for the 26 March parliamentary elections, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Yushchenko was speaking on Unification Day, the anniversary of the failed attempt to form an independent Ukrainian state in 1919. "Elections are a sacred matter," Yushchenko said. "Not for you, but for the voters. The best compliment a politician could possibly pay to his nation is to ensure that our election takes place in political stability." Yushchenko wants the Verkhovna Rada to back down on its dismissal of Yekhanurov's cabinet earlier this month over a controversial gas deal with Russia. Presidential Secretariat head Oleh Rybachuk told journalists the same day that Yushchenko will address the nation on 23 January to present proposals to overcome the country's current political crisis. JM

MOLDOVA TO IMPLEMENT NEW CUSTOMS RULE ON TRANSDNIESTER. Reintegration Minister Vasile Sova, who is in charge of Moldova's efforts to resolve the Transdniester conflict, said on 22 January that Chisinau has no plans to impose an economic blockade on the separatist region, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Sova added, however, that as of 25 January, all companies in Transdniester must process all imports and exports through Moldovan customs offices. All companies in the region, he added, must be registered in Moldova. "The government will offer discounted registration to all companies in the unrecognized [Transdniester] republic and will thus make it possible for them to legalize their activity and work without restrictions and bans," Sova said. Officials in Transdniester called the measures an economic blockade and parliamentary speaker Yevgeny Shevchuk warned on 21 January that the breakaway region could pull out of the talks on settling the regional conflict. Moldova and Ukraine signed the new customs rules on 31 December. BW