Ukraine commits to projects in gas-rich Turkmenistan

ASHGABAT, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Ukraine, a key recipient of Turkmen gas through Russian gas monopoly Gazprom GAZP.MM, has pledged $300 million in construction projects in the central Asian state, state media reported.

In the latest flurry of diplomacy, Serhiy Taruta, a senior Ukrainian industrialist, agreed to press ahead with two high-profile projects worth a total of $280 million following talks with Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

Taruta, co-head of the Industrial Union of Donbass, was in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, accompanied by the head of Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz, Turkmen media reported late on Monday.

Last month, Berdymukhamedov strongly criticised Ukrainian companies for the slow pace of work in building a bridge over the Amu Darya river and a tunnel in Ashgabat.

Central Asia’s top natural gas producer Turkmenistan currently uses a pipeline network operated by Gazprom to sell its gas internationally. Ukraine is the main transit nation for Russian and central Asian gas flowing to Europe. (Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Valerie Lee)