Ukraine says hopes to settle Russian gas bill row soon

Reuters

* Ukraine sends Naftogaz team to Moscow for talks

* Russia's Gazprom says $882 million bill not paid

* Stavitsky speaks of "sl;ight delays" in payments

KIEV, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Ukraine's energy ministeracknowledged on Wednesday the country may have fallen behind inpayments for monthly supplies of Russian gas but said heexpected the matter to be settled with Moscow very soon.

Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said onTuesday Ukraine, which relies heavily on supplies of Russiangas, had failed to settle a $882 million bill for Augustdeliveries and demanded it be paid urgently.

The harsh language used by Gazprom and Russian PrimeMinister Dmitry Medvedev evoked fears of a new "gas war" overprices between the two neighbours, similar to those in thewinters of 2006 and 2009 which caused supplies to be disruptednot only to Ukraine but to the rest of Europe.

Speaking to journalists, the Ukrainian minister, EduardStavitsky, said: "We have always paid up in dealings with ourpartners and we will pay this time as well...Occasionally therecan be, of course, misunderstandings and issues over timing. Sothere have been slight delays in payments."

Announcing a Naftogaz team was going to Moscow, he said heexpected the matter to be settled "today, at the latesttomorrow".

The new gas row with Russia has flared amid tension overUkraine's plans to sign landmark agreements with the EuropeanUnion on association and free trade next month - something whichhas dismayed its former Soviet master.

Obliquely referring to this, Stavitsky said: "I hope ourpartners will act according to business interests and notaccording to political ones."

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