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Russia, Ukraine to end gas dispute

MOSCOW, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Natural gas deliveries to Europe remained stalled Monday while Russian and Ukrainian officials prepared to sign a contract ending their pricing dispute.

Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, were to attend a signing ceremony Monday, following intense negotiations in Moscow that lasted until Sunday, RIA Novosti reported.

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The two leaders spoke on the phone Monday, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides are expected to sign "a direct long-term contract for years ahead," a source said.

Ukraine has agreed to pay gas prices according to the European gas pricing formula starting in 2010, after taking a 20 percent discount for 2009. In turn, Ukraine will not raise Russia's transit price this year, but bill the going rate starting in 2010.

"As soon as the documents are signed, all natural gas deliveries will be restored," Tymoshenko said.

The dispute over the contract and Russia's claim that Ukraine owed $614 million late fees on its gas bill, resulted in a shutdown of the trans-Ukrainian pipeline and left much of Europe without natural gas.

Slowdowns in deliveries began Jan. 1. At least 18 countries have been affected by the dispute.

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