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Gas price talks with Putin is first test for Ukraine leader

UKRAINE'S newly-installed President Petro Poroshenko is set to remake a governing team which will handle the crisis with Russia, with talks on gas prices yesterday providing an early test of his new relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Poroshenko's swearing-in as president at a pomp-filled, but relaxed, ceremony on Saturday conveyed the feeling that a line had been drawn under the six months of upheaval which toppled his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovich.

The 48-year-old businessman is expected in the coming days to name new foreign and defence ministers. Valery Chaly, a key ally, who was in charge of foreign policy issues during Poroshenko's campaign, looks a shoo-in for the foreign minister's job.

Another key ally will be Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, himself a former economy minister, who has already pledged to work "as a single whole" with the president and parliament.

An early test for the new leader will be yesterday's trilateral talks in Brussels aimed at solving a dispute over the price of Russian gas.

Russia had threatened to cut off supplies to its neighbour, a major gas transit route to the European Union, if it fails to pay its debts to Gazprom by today.

Poroshenko's blunt refusal to accept the loss of Crimea in a combative inaugural speech has already put him at odds with his Russian counterpart, Putin.

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