PRAGUE, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Ukraine will reach a compromise deal with Russia on gas supplies in a few days, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Monday, contradicting previous statements by Moscow which expected no deal to be made this year.
“During the last few days we have had very intensive negotiations and in a few days more we will reach a compromise solution, we want to enter the New Year with a modernized agreement,” Azarov told reporters after meeting Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas in Prague.
Russia signalled this month that final agreement would not come before the New Year in talks seen as important to securing gas supplies to Europe and likely to lead to shared control of Ukraine’s transit pipelines.
Moscow has indicated it would cut the price of gas for Ukraine, as Kiev has requested, if the former Soviet republic, which lies between Russia and its biggest gas customers, agrees to sell a stake in its pipelines to Russian export monopoly Gazprom.
Ukraine has long refused to do so and Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said last week a deal was unlikely to be made before the end of this year.
According to officials, the price of Russian gas will rise to $485 per thousand cubic metres in the first quarter of 2012 from about $400 today under the current agreement.
Ukraine depends heavily on Russian gas supplies and subsidises energy and heating costs for households, making its budget vulnerable to gas price movements.
The International Monetary Fund has long urged Kiev to drop the subsidies and stopped lending to Ukraine this year when it delayed the gas pricing reforms.
The Ukrainian government hopes to regain access to the $15 billion IMF programme after securing a discount from Russia.
Previous disputes on gas pricing between Ukraine and Russia have disrupted Gazprom’s supplies to Europe but both sides have pledged to ensure their stability this time. (Reporting by Robert Mueller; Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Kiev; editing by Keiron Henderson)