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Ukraine can meet March gas payments

KIEV, Ukraine, April 3 (UPI) -- Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz will meet its debt obligation to Russian gas giant Gazprom for March deliveries of natural gas, the Ukrainian premier said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told reporters Naftogaz is a reliable partner in the energy sector following earlier concerns over the debt-ridden energy company, Interfax-Ukraine reports.

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"Gas payments have been made on time and in full since Jan. 1 ... as will the payments for March," she said.

A row between Moscow and Kiev over gas arrears and contracts prompted Gazprom to cut supplies to Ukraine in January. Europe gets a portion of its gas from Russia, though 80 percent of that transits through Ukraine.

Naftogaz in February had warned of possible challenges in paying its debt as its regional utility customers owed the company some $551 million as the Ukrainian economy falters under recession.

Armed forces with the Security Service of Ukraine in March raided Naftogaz offices in connection with an investigation into allegations it had taken illegal transfers of natural gas from Gazprom.

The ongoing row over the Ukrainian energy sector brought promises of financial aid from the European Union. Russia reacted furiously over a bilateral March EU deal, a move defended by Tymoshenko.

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"We are ready to cooperate with everybody who offers the best options with the lowest prices and the highest quality," Tymoshenko said of the deal.

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