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Ukraine: Putin To Negotiate Gas Debt

Kyiv, 18 April 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin is meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Reports say talks are likely to focus on Ukraine's gas debt to Moscow, which the Russian gas giant Gazprom says is more than $2 billion. Kyiv say the debt is some $1.4 billion. Ukraine is the third and last stop of Putin's first foreign tour since his election victory last month. He started the trip in Belarus and had talks in London yesterday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Putin and Blair agreed to seek closer ties between their countries. Blair said he does not believe western concerns over alleged human rights violations by Russian forces in Chechnya should block cooperation between London and Moscow.