* Ukraine wants to buy more gas from Europe
* Gazprom says Ukraine using "fraudulent" purchasing scheme
* Ukraine and Gazprom in pricing dispute
MOSCOW, April 24 Gazprom warned
European companies on Wednesday against what it alleges are
illicit resales of Russian gas to Ukraine, stepping up pressure
on its neighbour in a long-standing contractual dispute.
Ukraine argues that it is being forced to pay too much for
its gas from the Russian company, which covers a quarter of
Europe's gas needs. Similar stand-offs led to temporary cuts in
gas supplies to Europe in 2006 and 2009, though there has been
no indication that such blocks - embarrassing both for Russia
and Ukraine - could be repeated.
Russia ships more than half its gas exports to Europe via
Ukraine, which is tied to a disputed long-term contract with
Gazprom at higher prices than those paid by buyers in the
Ukraine began importing small volumes of gas from Europe
last year and wants to buy up to 8 billion cubic metres (bcm) of
gas a year from central Europe to replace expensive Russian
Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller has said Ukraine is
using "fraudulent" schemes to carry out shipments of Russian gas
from European markets.
On Wednesday, his spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov warned
European companies against such operations.
"We are sure that serious European companies will not take
part in dubious gas deals with Ukraine, in which Gazprom's gas
is used and which does not belong to (Ukraine's state company)
Naftogaz," Kupriyanov said.
Ukraine agreed a ten-year contract for Russian gas supplies
in 2009 under former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She was
sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 on
abuse-of-office charges, including her part in signing the gas
Gazprom says that Ukraine bought almost 33 bcm of gas from
Russia last year - almost on a par with Germany, Gazprom's
largest client. Ukraine pays $430 per 1,000 cubic metres, far
more than the $370 that is expected to be Gazprom's average
price for Europe this year.
Ukraine has said it wants to cut Russian gas imports by a
quarter and has signed a contract with Germany's RWE
for alternative shipments that could provide about 5 bcm of gas
Gazprom, meanwhile, has pressed Ukraine for underpaying its
bill for Russian gas by $7 billion but has stopped short of
threatening legal action.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Douglas Busvine
and David Goodman)