Thousands of Ukrainian citizens have gathered in the capital city to protest about massive gas price hikes that have been imposed by the Kiev government and are the legacy of the gas dispute with Russia at the start of 2006.

Ukrainian citizens have been forced to the streets in their tens of thousands to protest an 85% rise in gas prices.

The alarming increases, among them a reported 25% rise for electricity and 43% for train fares, come as the Ukrainian authorities have finally filtered through to the end user the effects of the new Russian supply tariffs.

While a huge burden for the Ukrainian people, the price rises are long overdue according to the Kiev government, which had been shielding citizens from the effects of the acrimonious renegotiation with Russia in January 2006.

The hikes come as a result of Russian state gas supplier Gazprom imposing a new supply price at the start of the year that was almost double the amount Ukraine previously paid for its imported supplies. The former Soviet state now pays $95 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

Many Ukrainians are arguing that they cannot pay for increases. Meanwhile, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is expected to be sworn in as the new prime minister this week, has indicated that the January deal with Russian might be reevaluated.

Gazprom has already said that any renegotiation of the deal risks triggered a repeat of last winter’s crisis, when Russia suspended gas exports to Ukraine and consequently to much of western Europe.