Russia denies Ukraine gas system move - FT
At the same time, the Russia`s ambassador to the EU floated the idea that...
Russia yesterday rejected Ukrainian suggestions that its behaviour in last month`s European gas crisis indicated that Moscow`s long-term aim was to gain control of the Ukrainian gas transit network, The Financial Times reported.
At the same time Vladimir Chizhov, Russia`s ambassador to the European Union, floated the idea that Gazprom, Russia`s state-owned gas monopoly, might form a consortium with Ukrainian and EU partners to oversee Russian gas deliveries to Europe.
Mr Chizhov was speaking to reporters ahead of talks in Moscow on Friday between Vladimir Putin, Russia`s prime minister, and José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president.
Nine other EU commissioners will attend the discussions, the first such face-to-face talks since Russia cut off Europe`s gas supplies through Ukraine in early January after a dispute over the contract governing Gaz-prom`s deliveries to the Ukrainian domestic market.
Viktor Yushchenko, Uk-raine`s president, told the Financial Times last week that Russia`s goals in the crisis had been to discredit Ukraine as a gas transit partner and "to get political and commercial control of the Ukrainian gas system".
Asked about this allegation, Mr Chizhov declared: "I would say that`s rubbish. The fact that the Ukrainian pipeline network was neglected ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union is recognised by everybody.
"The fact that its technical status is not up to standard is recognised by everybody. The fact that money supposed to be spent on maintenance from transit fees was spent on something else is recognised by everybody."
Mr Yushchenko, visiting Brussels last week, appealed for EU help in upgrading Ukraine`s gas transit network. EU officials said he had received a sympathetic response, partly because he soothed EU concerns by promising to honour a Russian-Ukrainian accord that ended the gas crisis, even though it is likely to put Ukraine`s finances under strain.
Under the accord, the role of RosUkrEnergo, a Swiss-registered intermediary that has controlled the Russian-Ukrainian gas trade since 2006, would apparently be eliminated to ensure transparency and prevent corruption.
Mr Chizhov suggested new arrangements might be set up. "I understand that Gazprom might be interested in having a Russian-Ukrainian-EU consortium to manage the network. But that`s for the parties to agree."
A similar idea has come from Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian businessman who controls 45 per cent of Ros-UkrEnergo.
Last month`s crisis has reinforced the EU`s determination to diversify its suppliers and supply routes, since Russia accounts for about a quarter of EU gas imports, most of which flow through Ukraine.
However, Mr Chizhov said the EU-supported Nabucco project, a 3,300km pipeline intended to carry gas from the Caspian Sea and central Asia through Turkey to Europe, had drawbacks.