Russia to seek less dependence for energy transit - Putin

14:27, 01 February 2007
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Putin said in reference to pricing and tariff difficulties with Ukraine

Russia`s president said the country would look for ways to reduce its dependence on transit nations for its oil and gas exports to Europe, according to RIA Novosti.

Russia`s state-run pipeline monopoly Transneft [RTS: TRNF] will increase the capacity of oil terminals at the Baltic port of Primorsk, near St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin said in an apparent reference to the pricing and tariff difficulties, in particular with neighbors Ukraine and Belarus.

"I have given instructions to the government, and Transneft has started work on expanding terminals in Primorsk by 50 million metric tons [366.5 mln bbl]," the president told a Kremlin news conference.

Russia, which supplies more than 25% of Europe`s oil and gas, mostly via Belarusian and Ukrainian pipelines, is also leading a project to build the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea as a direct link to Germany.

In a move that has angered Russia`s neighbors, energy giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] has been seeking to introduce market prices for ex-Soviet nations, which enjoyed discounted rates since Soviet times.

A dispute with Belarus last month caused a three-day suspension of Russian crude piped via Belarus to Germany and several Central European countries. A similar spat with Ukraine a year ago left several EU states, including Italy, with a shortfall in natural gas supplies. Both incidents provoked concerns in Europe over Russia`s reliability as an energy supplier, and accusations that Moscow is using its energy resources as a tool for political pressure.

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