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Putin Says Trade Ties With Ukraine 'Dramatically Improved'

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in Kyiv.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says trade ties with Ukraine have improved dramatically since Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych came to power.

Putin made his remarks in Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian leaders for talks on natural-gas supplies to Ukraine.

Putin said trade turnover between Russia and Ukraine rose nearly 80 percent this year because of improving global conditions, but also because ties were "normalized."

About 80 percent of Russian gas exports to the European Union transit Ukraine, and Russia has long said it wants a stake in Ukraine's pipeline system.

Ukraine, which depends on Russian gas imports, wants Russia to cut prices.

During his last visit in April, Putin proposed a merger between Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine's state-owned Naftogaz.

Ukraine has ruled out a merger, but Ukrainian officials have said a joint venture between the two countries is a possibility if it buys cheaper gas.

compiled from agency reports