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Putin Discusses $6Bln Loan to Ukraine for Reactors

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Russia might lend $5 billion to $6 billion to Ukraine to construct two nuclear reactors, while promising to consider a new deal on gas supply prices.

"We discussed cooperation on nuclear energy … a possibility is to lend $5 billion to $6 billion to construct the third and fourth reactors for the Khmelnitsky nuclear power station," Putin said after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Azarov, at Vnukovo Airport.

Both leaders expressed their condolences to the people of Poland over the Saturday morning plane crash in Smolensk that killed President Lech Kaczynski and many other senior dignitaries.

Azarov also said he won a pledge from Putin to remove quotas on Ukrainian large-diameter pipes, a key export for the country that is used in the oil and gas industry.

Putin "promised to make the necessary orders to the relevant ministries. I hope this matter will be resolved and that this matter will be dropped from the difficulties in our relations," Azarov said, referring to the trade barriers.

"I'm very happy to note, above all, the constructive, objective approach from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin," he said, according to a transcript posted on the Russian government web site. "I hope that we really will be able to find solutions in the next few days to the problems that we discussed today."

The two prime ministers also discussed the price of Russian gas exports to Ukraine, an issue that has long been a bone of contention between Moscow and Kiev, but they did not reach a new agreement.

Putin said the Ukrainian proposals were interesting.

"I admit we can achieve a solution, to a large extent it is a matter of calculation. ... It needs to be worked out," Putin said.

Azarov, who was tapped to head the government following the victory of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine's presidential election earlier this year, said he was hoping for an imminent agreement.

"I hope we can find a solution in coming days," he said.

Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on gas prices in 2009, but the new leadership in Kiev now says the price of gas is too high.

In previous years, the issue has threatened to disrupt supplies to the rest of Europe. About 80 percent of Russian exports to Europe go via Ukraine, although new gas routes are under construction.

Azarov said last week that Russian gas is currently too expensive and, if the price rose too high in the second quarter, Ukraine's chemical industry would grind to a halt.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Boiko and Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller agreed Thursday that Ukraine would raise its gas imports by 10 percent this year, to 36.5 billion cubic meters. In 2009, Kiev negotiated an import cut to 26.8 bcm, from 49 bcm the previous year.

(Reuters, MT)

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