WASHINGTON, March 28 The European Union is
seeking to insulate its probe of Russia's gas export monopoly,
Gazprom, which is suspected of anti-competitive
behavior, from larger concerns about Russia's seizure of
Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, Europe's top antitrust enforcer
said on Friday.
Gazprom, the world's top gas producer and supplier of around
30 percent of Europe's gas needs, has been under EU
investigation since September 2012 for suspected
anti-competitive behavior, including overcharging customers and
blocking rival suppliers.
Russia ships around half of its gas to Europe through
European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, speaking
in English, said he wanted to see antitrust issues separated
from other disputes but he acknowledged the difficulty inherent
in accomplishing that given Russia's controversial move into
"These days are not the most adequate ones to have a quiet
discussion on the question related with Russian gas and how the
Russian gas arrives to the territory and to the markets of the
EU," Almunia told reporters in Washington. "(But) antitrust
investigations should be protected from any kind of external
There have been perennial gas price disputes between Russia
and Ukraine, which caused shortages in the winter of 2009.
Gazprom has offered the EU pricing concessions but has not
unveiled any details and may have to sweeten its offer to ward
off a possible fine of as much as $14.3 billion or 10 percent of
its 2012 turnover.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Stephen Powell)