Ukraine's Naftogaz starts paying Gazprom debt

KIEV, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Ukraine’s state energy firm Naftogaz has paid off 500 million hryvnias (about $100 million) of its gas import debts, which Russia’s Gazprom says amount to $1.5 billion, the presidential office said on Thursday.

Gas export monopoly Gazprom GAZP.MM had threatened to cut some supplies to Ukraine because of the debt but this week Moscow and Kiev came to an agreement about its settlement and on the issue of import intermediaries.

The dispute had sent jitters through Europe, which receives a quarter of its gas from Russia, most of it via Ukraine.

President Viktor Yushchenko’s office said Naftogaz had paid the money to Ukrgazenergo -- one of the intermediaries that gets the gas from Gazprom via another intermediary called RosUkrEnergo.

Yushchenko and Russia’s President Putin agreed on Tuesday that the debt would be settled and that a joint venture would be set up between Gazprom and Naftogaz, replacing the current intermediaries.

Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said on Thursday that Naftogaz and Gazprom officials were now discussing how and exactly when the Ukrainian energy firm would repay in full the debt, accumulated between November last year and January. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, editing by Anthony Barker)