Ukraine will not be blackmailed by Russia, Ukraine's foreign minister vowed Thursday, as the two countries continued their verbal clashes in an escalating dispute over natural gas supplies.
Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk's remarks were the latest volley in the ongoing feud over Moscow's demand that &to=http://english.pravda.ru/comp/2002/06/21/30914.html' target=_blank>Ukraine pay more than quadruple the current price it pays for gas imports from Russia. Kiev has refused, saying such a sharp hike would harm energy-inefficient industries and poor consumers.
"We want to develop partnership, friendly and neighborly relations with Russia, but we will never accept blackmail and pressure," Tarasiuk told reporters.
Also Thursday, &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/90/361/15861_Yushchenko.html' target=_blank>President Viktor Yushchenko spoke over the telephone with Turkmenistan counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov in an apparent attempt to alleviate a looming gas crisis. A statement from Yushchenko's office said the two leaders spoke about "energy issues and gas shipments."
Earlier Thursday, Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov and the head of the state-run gas provider Naftogaz Ukrainy traveled to the Turkmen capital Ashgabat to try and agree on new prices for the next year.
Turkmenistan, which supplies Ukraine with more than half of its gas imports, has also proposed increasing prices.
Ukraine is heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supplies and Kiev has threatened it could reconsider the US$97 million (Ђ77 million) in annual rent that Russia pays to base its Black Sea fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.
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