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Ukrainian President Defends Gas Deal With Russia

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in the control room of the national gas distributor Naftohaz (file photo) (epa) April 12, 2006 -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has reiterated his support for a controversial natural gas agreement with Russia.

Under the contract, Ukraine is to pay $95 for each 1,000 cubic meters of gas it will receive from Russia in the next five years, up from a previous $50.

"I see no need in reviewing this document," Yushchenko told reporters, saying that Ukraine had secured the "cheapest price" for gas of any of Russia's neighbors.

The deal was reached on January 4 after what Yushchenko called "hard" and "complicated" negotiations. Many Ukrainians have criticized the agreement, saying it will hurt the nation's economy.

Former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, whose party came second in March 26 legislative elections, has made it clear that, should she head the new government, she will seek to cancel the agreement.

Yushchenko also said that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Kyiv once Ukraine has a new government.

(5-iy Kanal, "Ukrayinska Pravda")

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