By Pavel Polityuk
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday called on the government and state energy company Naftogaz to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on lowering household gas prices from May 1.
The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar loan programme, has said it wants to see gas prices set at their market level.
Zelenskiy, who has yet to take office but won a landslide election victory on Sunday, said in a statement on his team’s Facebook page he wanted prices to be lower.
“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement said.
“For the past four months, gas prices in Europe have been decreasing and now the price of gas for the population in Ukraine is higher than the price of gas on the European market.”
The same statement warned that neighbouring Russia might limit energy supplies to Ukraine from June 1, and that, from Jan. 1, Moscow might move to halt gas transit through Ukraine altogether, a move it said would result in significant financial losses and gas supply risks.
“These challenges require us to take effective and fast action,” the statement said.
An IMF spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in March said he would urge the finance ministry and Naftogaz to start talks with the IMF to try to prevent any future rise in gas tariffs.
The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.
According to a previously adopted government resolution, gas prices were due to rise by 15 percent from May 1. But earlier this week the government and Naftogaz agreed a slight decrease in tariffs.
Naftogaz said prices would fall by around 3.5 percent to 8,247 hryvnias (£240.13) per 1,000 cubic metres from May 1.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Matthias Williams)