Kyiv, EU to cooperate in modernizing Ukraine's gas transit pipes
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso agreed on Monday to cooperate in modernizing the Ukrainian gas transportation system, according to RIA Novosti.
The Soviet-era gas transit system pumps 141 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe annually.
Ukraine has previously discussed the issue of modernizing its pipelines with Russia`s Gazprom, but the sides have not yet come to an agreement. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said the Russian energy giant may fund the modernization if Ukraine`s gas company Naftogaz merges with Gazprom.
Speaking after a meeting with Barroso in Kiev, Yanukovych said "we have an intention to invite partners from other countries, besides Russia, and make the Ukrainian gas transportation system work transparently."
Ukrainian authorities have also proposed creating a consortium involving Ukraine, Russia and the EU to operate its gas transit system.
Russian officials, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have said that Russia was still interested in Ukraine`s gas transportation system, despite the construction of the South Stream pipeline intended to pump Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea bypassing Ukraine.
Some Ukrainian officials have called on Russia to scrap its pipeline construction plans, saying the modernization of Ukraine`s pipes, estimated at $6.5 billion, would cost Russia far less.
During talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin in late August, Yanukovych invited Germany to take part in modernizing Ukraine`s gas transit system.
Kiev has also welcomed U.S. investment in the pipelines.
Ukraine`s gas pipeline system, which stretches over 37,500 kilometers (23,306 miles), includes 71 booster stations and 13 underground gas storage units of 32 billion cubic meters capacity.