* Gazprom says could increase volumes by 15 bcm per year
* Ukraine says Russian gas price exorbitant
* Polish minister voices scepticism over the idea
(Adds reaction from Poland, detail)
By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, April 3 Russia's Gazprom is
revisiting the idea of building the second strand of the
Yamal-Europe gas pipeline to boost volumes to Europe as it
raises the stakes in a pricing dispute with Ukraine, the
Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday.
Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, told Russian
President Vladimir Putin that the additional link could be
launched in 2018-2019 and raise its capacity by 30 percent, or
around 15 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year, Interfax reported.
Gazprom has long been in talks with European countries about
the pipeline expansion. But it has raised the issue again as its
gas pricing dispute with neighbouring Ukraine heats up.
Gazprom charges Ukraine $430 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas,
a price which Kiev says is exorbitant and unaffordable.
The move, coupled with the launch of other alternative
pipelines such as Nord Stream and South Stream, would weaken the
position of Ukraine, which currently tranships around half of
the Russian gas bound for Europe.
"The market analysis showed that we may aim for 15 bcm of
gas," Miller told Interfax.
He said the company had completed talks with Poland, Hungary
and Slovakia about the possibility of increasing supplies via
the so-called Yamal-Europe 2 pipeline.
But Polish Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski on
Wednesday voiced scepticism about the project.
"I approach media speculation regarding the second Yamal gas
strand with great caution, as agreeing or disagreeing to such a
project should depend on the price of the transit gas and its
suppliers," Budzanowski said in a statement.
"The acceptance by European Union entrepreneurs, potential
buyers of the gas, to further raise imports from one source is
also key," he added.
Gazprom, Russia's gas exporting monopoly, is Europe's
biggest supplier of gas, shipping around a quarter of its needs.
(Additional reporting by Adrian Krajewski in Warsaw, editing by
Lidia Kelly and Jane Baird)