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Putin Proposes Merging Russian, Ukrainian State Gas Firms

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) welcomes his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Azarov to Sochi.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed merging Gazprom, the world's largest gas firm, with Ukraine's state gas company, Naftogaz.

Putin made the proposal public after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Azarov, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

"We have talked about integration in the nuclear field. We are prepared to do the same in the gas field," Putin said. "I propose merging Gazprom and Naftogaz."

But Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller said the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers would discuss the issue with the chief executive officers of Gazprom and Naftogaz after the national holidays due to be marked in the first two weeks of May.

Earlier, the head of Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said both countries were considering creating a joint venture to implement nuclear power projects.

Noting that bilateral relations were developing in the financial and banking sphere, Putin also said the Russian state bank VTB was ready to offer Ukraine a $500 million loan to help its crisis-hit economy.

Today's meeting was the latest move to revive ties between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Kyiv agreed a bitterly controversial deal extending the lease of a Russian naval base in Ukraine in exchange for a 30 percent cut in the price of Russian gas.

Ukraine's pro-Western opposition has denounced the deal as a selling-out of the nation's interests.

compiled from agency reports