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Russia to help Ukraine stabilise gas supply

MOSCOW, April 30 – Ukraine must top up its reserves of Russian gas to avert future disruption of supply to Europe but Moscow is ready to help finance the purchases, a top Russian official was quoted as saying on Thursday.

"Ukraine, in order to ensure uninterrupted transit of Russian gas to European consumers, should in the near future purchase and pump into its underground at least 19.5 billion cubic metres of gas," Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told EU colleagues, according to ITAR-TASS news agency.

"In raising these problems, we\’re also putting forward solutions. We\’ve even agreed to joint financing," Sechin told a meeting with EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and other EU officials.

Sechin underlined that: "From our point of view, risks remain. We still haven\’t achieved guaranteed stability and are prepared to explain our position on this."

Ukraine is the main transit route for Russia\’s crucial gas supplies to Europe and problems with the transit system risk leaving a swathe of the continent without reliable supplies.

Sechin stressed the need to replenish the dwindling reserves in Ukraine\’s vast underground storage facilities.

"If this isn\’t done, then the tragedy we went through in January will develop along catastrophic lines," he said, without elaborating.

His comments follow a visit to Moscow on Wednesday by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko aimed at patching up strains that caused cut-offs in January in many European countries.

Among items under discussion between Russia and Ukraine is a possible Russian loan to its neighbour of five billion dollars.

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Wednesday\’s meeting between Tymoshenko and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin produced agreement on involving Russia in work to update Ukraine\’s Soviet-era gas pipeline system, on which much of the European Union depends.

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