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Ukraine lacks sufficient funds to store gas for winter -Yushchenko


KIEV, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz is $2 billion short of being able to pump natural gas into its underground storage systems to prepare for winter, President Viktor Yushchenko said on Friday.

The ex-Soviet state is seeking a syndicated loan of over $4 billion from European banks to pay it debts to Russian energy giant Gazprom until November 2009. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in early June it would be difficult for the EU to help Ukraine keep up with its payments.

"Naftogaz needs another $1.6 billion - $2 billion to be able to prepare for the winter season and to pump gas into its underground facilities," Yushchenko was quoted as saying.

He criticized the Ukrainian government's gas transit policies as "unprofitable" and repeatedly urged the reconsideration of gas transit tariffs, warning that otherwise Ukraine could lose $2.5 billion in 2009.

"Liberalizing the transit policy, building it on the principles of competitiveness and setting a normal European transit tariff are the things that obviously need to be reconsidered in the agreements signed [with Russia in January]," Yushchenko said.

Russia, which supplies around one fifth of Europe's gas, briefly shut down supplies via Ukraine's pipeline system at the start of the year over Kiev's unpaid debt.

The conflict was resolved in January, when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, agreed on $1.7 as a fee for transiting 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas per 100 km for 2009.

Ukraine transits around 80% of Russia's Europe-bound gas.

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