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Gazprom losses hit $2 bln in gas row with Ukraine - official

MOSCOW, January 26 (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom lost $2 billion during its recent gas dispute with Ukraine, a senior executive at the Russian energy giant said on Monday.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after talks on debt and prices for 2009 broke down in late December and halted gas flow to Europe a week later, saying Ukraine was stealing Europe-bound gas.

"We have the right to demand full compensation from Ukraine, as we lost more than $2 billion during the first weeks of January," Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said in an interview with the Russia Today international news channel.

Medvedev said one of Gazprom's customers in Europe, Bulgaria, had indicated it would seek compensation for shortfalls in gas supplies caused by the monopoly's debt and price dispute with Ukraine. He said responsibility for the disruptions lay entirely with Kiev.

On Friday, Bulgaria estimated damage caused by the shortfalls at 250 million euros (about $324 million) and demanded compensation from Gazprom. Medvedev said in Sofia that Gazprom could supply the contract-stipulated volume of gas to the Balkan state at a discounted price instead of paying the compensation.

Gazprom earlier said the disruption in supplies to Europe was due to force majeure circumstances.

The two countries' prime ministers, Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko, and the chiefs of Gazprom and Ukraine's energy company Naftogaz signed a deal to resume supplies on January 19, following uneasy talks mediated by the European Union.

However, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's energy aide said on Monday that Ukraine could withdraw from the deal, which he said ran counter to the presidential instructions.

"The deal between Naftogaz and Gazprom could be scrapped if it is found to have been signed under pressure," Bohdan Sokolovskiy said, as quoted by the presidential press office, without elaborating further.

Sokolovskiy said the president's staff were closely studying the document.

The new 10-year contracts oblige Ukraine to pay the European price for Russian natural gas with a 20% discount this year and the full market price from 2010, and Gazprom to eventually pay more to Ukraine in transit fees.

Days after the contracts were signed, Yushchenko's aides said the president was unhappy with the deal and demanded new talks.