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Ukraine Leader to Seek Turkmen Gas to Ease Reliance on Russia

KIEV — The supply of Turkmen gas to? Ukraine? will be on the agenda during a visit to? Turkmenistan? next week by? Ukraine's president, whose government is struggling to reduce its dependence on expensive Russian gas.

President? Viktor Yanukovych's visit will take place from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14, his office said Friday. Ukrainian Foreign Minister? Leonid Kozhara, who traveled to Turkmenistan? last month to prepare the visit, said gas will be discussed.

Turkmenistan? used to sell gas to? Ukraine? in the late 1990s and early 2000s, shipping it through Russian pipelines. But since 2009,? Ukraine? has been buying the fuel only from? Russia's Gazprom.

The price of Russian supplies has been rising steadily, becoming a burden on the state budget and the economy because a 2009 contract between Gazprom and Ukraine's? Naftogaz? linked it to global energy prices.

Finding another supplier could be a quick solution for? Ukraine, but only if? Kiev? and? Ashgabat? agree on a price and? Moscow? allows such shipments.

Ukrainian officials say a new free trade agreement signed last year by the? Commonwealth of Independent States, a club of ex-Soviet republics, obliges? Russia to allow shipments of Turkmen gas to? Ukraine? at competitive rates.

But? Moscow? has yet to comment officially on the idea.

According to oil and gas firm? BP,? Turkmenistan's natural gas reserves are equal to those of? Saudi Arabia? and are smaller only than those of? Russia, Iran and Qatar.

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