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Ukrainian President In Turkmenistan To Promote Economic Ties

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
KYIV -- Ukrainian experts say the purpose of President Viktor Yanukovych's two-day visit to Turkmenistan is to boost bilateral economic ties centered on natural-gas deliveries, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Yanukovych and his delegation arrived in the Turkmen capital today.

Anatoliy Kinakh, chairman of Ukraine's ruling Party of Regions parliament faction, told RFE/RL that the visit aims to restore trade relations between Kyiv and Ashgabat to recent levels.

In 2006, annual bilateral trade amounted to more than $4 billion, compared with just $400 million in 2010.

The major reason for the abrupt decline in turnover is the stoppage of natural-gas deliveries to Ukraine from Turkmenistan.

Kinakh said Yanukovych's visit to Ashgabat will help to "seriously negotiate conditions for the delivery of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine."

He said "it is necessary to preserve the balance of interests in that matter, as natural gas can be transported to Ukraine only via gas pipelines that cross Russia."

Kinakh added that Yanukovych is accompanied by government ministers and leading businesspeople who will participate in talks with their Turkmen counterparts on various business deals.

Ihor Semyvolos, director of the Kyiv-based Middle East Research Center, told RFE/RL that although Ukraine and Turkmenistan used to have an intensive business and trade partnership, it will not be easy to revive it as the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union are competing for Turkmenistan's natural gas.

Ukrainian Energy and Coal Minister Yuriy Boyko said last week that Ukraine is ready to resume buying natural gas from Turkmenistan.

Mykhaylo Honchar, energy issues program director at the Homos Center in Kyiv, told RFE/RL that it is currently impossible for Ukraine to establish a diversified gas-supply system as the only gas-export pipelines from Central Asia transit Russia.

Honchar said several years ago when Uzbekistan sought to provide Ukraine with natural gas in payment for goods, the Russian gas giant Gazprom refused to allow the gas's transit on the grounds that doing so would undercut its monopoly on natural-gas supplies to Ukraine.

The European Union is promoting construction of the Nabucco pipeline, which could potentially bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to EU countries, including Ukraine's southern neighbors -- Hungary and Romania -- without transiting Russia.

Read more in Ukrainian here