KIEV, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) --
Russian President Vladimir Putin assured his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor
Yushchenko here on Friday that Russia would be Ukraine's reliable energy
supplier, presenting a welcome break from the strained relationship between the
two countries in the recent past.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin
(front) and Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko toast with champagne
after signing documents in Kiev Dec. 22, 2006.(Xinhua/AFP
After talks with Yushchenko, Putin told a joint news
conference that Russia and Ukraine will build their relations on the basis of
pragmatism, equal rights, good neighborly ties and friendship.
Putin's Friday visit to Kiev is his first since
Ukraine's pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych came to power in August.
Yanukovych had promised to improve Ukraine's strained relations with Moscow,
which had been troubled by President Yushchenko's looking-westward policies.
Putin said that both Russia and Ukraine understand
the practical advantage and strategic importance of joint action, and hope to
continue their cooperation in energy, aviation, transportation and military
Putin's meeting with Yushchenko stood in sharp
contrast against the two countries' relations a year ago when Moscow cut off gas
supplies to Ukraine for four days over a dispute regarding gas prices. The
shutdown worried western European countries.
In October, both sides agreed to a gas price widely
seen as a gift to Yanukovych's pro-Russian government -- 130 U.S. dollars per
1,000 cubic meters. Although Kiev pays 95 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters at
present, Russia is demanding 170 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters from Moldova and
235 from Georgia in 2007.
"We are ready to cooperate with Ukraine on the basis
of market principles and ready to look at the possibility of additional gas
supplied if needed," said Putin.
Ukraine consumes about 80 billion cubic meters of gas each year, most of which is imported from Russia. Russia transfers 112 billion cubic meters of gas to other European countries each year through pipelines crossing Ukraine. In recent years, the two countries had been in dispute over gas prices and Russia's payments to Ukraine for using its pipelines.