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Azarov: Ukraine needs to address gas price

KIEV, Ukraine, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Kiev needs to take steps to allay concerns that its natural gas agreement with Russia is putting the country on the brink of collapse, the prime minister said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Germany, which is further from Russia than Ukraine, is paying roughly $345 per 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas while Ukraine is paying $545 per 1,000 cubic meters.

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"I would like to ask why the Ukrainian people are treated so badly, why our country was placed on the verge of catastrophe," he was quoted by Russian news agency ITAR-Tass as saying.

Kiev is upset over the conditions of a 2009 gas deal that broke an impasse over contracts and debt with Russia's energy company Gazprom. Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail for her role in brokering the deal.

"If we do not reach an agreement with Russia (to revise the gas contracts), we will not be able to compensate the population for growing tariffs any longer," Azarov said.

The Kremlin in August suggested Ukraine could get a better deal if it joined the Moscow-led Customs Union. Kiev said it didn't want to become a full member, however, because it would interfere with free trade deals with the European Union.

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