KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Kiev aims to restore its reputation as a gas transit nation by working collectively with Russia and the European Union, the Ukrainian prime minister said.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov spoke with Stefan Fule, the European commissioner for enlargement, on upgrading his country's natural gas transit system.
"The government will keep trying to achieve progress in the talks with the Russian federation on gas supplies and transit," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying. "I hope the EU will be proactive in this regard."
Spats over gas contracts and debt prompted Russian gas monopoly Gazprom to cut gas supplies to Ukraine several times. That left European consumers in the cold for several weeks in early 2009 as 80 percent of their gas from Russian moves through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine.
Kiev had discussed working closer with Gazprom on its transit system, though Ukrainian officials are reluctant to move too close to Moscow.
Nevertheless, Azarov said "everyone" should come to terms with the fact that Russia is a major gas supplier for the European Union.
Kiev, he added, aims to spend about $6.5 billion to upgrade its gas transit system by 2018.