(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Ukraine has reached a tentative agreement with Turkmenistan to resume imports of natural gas from the Central Asian country.
Ukrainian Energy Minister Eduard Stavytskyy told journalists in Ashgabat on February 13 that the agreement was signed after talks between visiting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.
Stavytskyy added that talks with other parties will follow before the deal can be finalized. The deal's completion would require the consent of Kazakhstan and Russia as transit states. Ukraine has been seeking alternatives to Russian gas imports to meet its energy needs. Until 2006, Turkmenistan supplied Ukraine with 36 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Last month, Russia's state-controlled Gazprom gas monopoly demanded that Ukraine pay back a 7 billion debt, a claim Kyiv disputes.
Earlier Friday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has said his country will not pay the 7 billion fine that Russia's Gazprom is demanding for gas Ukraine did not use in 2012. Yanukovych said on February 22 that "we refuse to pay this fine."
Yanukovych called the contract "unfair" and said the fine was more than the cost of the unused gas, reported the Russian ITAR-TASS and Interfax news agencies. Gazprom announced the fine last month, saying that Ukraine had not used some 8 billion cubic meters of gas.
Gazprom cited the so-called "take-or-pay" deal that obligates the consumer to fully pay for contracted gas.
Gazprom insists the "take-or-pay" contracts are standard, but Russia's ambassador to Azerbaijan said in January that Gazprom would not pay for unused Azerbaijani gas it signed a contract for in 2012, a practice he described as "normal commerce."