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Europe will sleep warm, Ukraine says

KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said European energy consumers will stay warm this winter as a result of efforts to resolve gas issues with Russia.

"Europe will sleep calmly, in warmth, if Ukraine maintains normal relations with Russia," he was quoted by the National News Agency of Ukraine as saying Tuesday.

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Ukraine was able to reach an agreement with Russia to defer payments toward debt incurred this year from natural gas deliveries from Russian energy company Gazprom. Disagreement in 2009 prompted Gazprom to cut gas deliveries through Ukraine, which left European consumers in the cold for several weeks.

European consumers get about 20 percent of their gas needs met by Russia, much of it through a Soviet-era transmission network in Ukraine.

The deal that broke the 2009 impasse left Ukraine with a higher debt burden for gas than its European counterparts. Yanukovych said the current gas contract with Gazprom resulted in $20 billion in losses in the last few years.

"Russia is ready to discuss this [gas contract] issue," he said.

A November decision to suspend efforts to sign free trade and association agreements with the EU sparked widespread protests in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government said the decision was made to protect its economic ties to Russia.

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