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Kiev has paid Russian energy giant Gazprom $1 billion towards
Kiev has paid Russian energy giant Gazprom $1 billion towards its natural gas debt to cover September and October, the UNIAN news agency quoted a Ukrainian presidential spokeswoman as saying on Friday.

Ukraine earlier announced payment of an $800 million installment and said it planned to pay another $200 million of its gas debt to Moscow. Gazprom said the ex-Soviet republic owed more than $2 billion.

"The payment of $1 billion for natural gas consumed in September and October has so far been made," Irina Vannikova said quoted by the agency.

Gazprom warned Kiev on Thursday it could suspend gas supplies to Ukraine from the start of next year over its failure to repay the debt. Russia also warned Brussels of a possible suspension in supplies as Ukraine is a major transit country for Russian gas exports to Western Europe.

Gazprom briefly cut off supplies to Ukraine during a bitter pricing row at the start of 2006, which led to shortfalls among European consumers.

Vannikova said the president's involvement would help resolve the problems, and a new gas contract with Russia would be signed this year.

However, Yushchenko also said at a news briefing on Friday that a reasonable price for Russian-supplied gas next year should be $100 per 1,000 cubic meters given lower prices "from alternative sources of energy in the region." Yushchenko did not elaborate on the sources.

Gazprom plans to gradually raise prices for Ukraine, which currently pays $179.5 per 1,000 cu m, to European levels. Kiev earlier said it hoped to pay no more than $240 next year.


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