* Timchenko now head of Russia-China business council
* Sees many Russia-China projects
* Says Gazprom's China deal most important in decade
(Adds quotes, details)
By Dmitry Zhdannikov and Denis Pinchuk
ST PETERSBURG, Russia, May 22 Gennady Timchenko,
who has had sanctions imposed on him by the United States, said
on Thursday he expects a flurry of deals between Russia and
China following his appointment as what he called Moscow's point
person for business relations with China.
The sanctions imposed on Timchenko are part of a broader
drive by the West to put pressure on President Vladimir Putin
and business and political leaders loyal to him over Russia's
annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
"You know what Putin said? He introduced me (to Chinese
businessmen) by saying now Mr Timchenko is the head of our
(China-Russia) business council. In other words - it is my words
here - he is our main man for China. From the point of view of
business relations. That was yesterday," said Timchenko, who
accompanied Putin on a trip to China.
His appointment, as head of the Russian side of an
officially approved Sino-Russian business body, was confirmed by
the lobby group.
In his first meeting with reporters since sanctions were
imposed in March, Timchenko - who until a few years ago had not
given a single interview - was brimming with confidence, smiling
Russian gas giant Gazprom this week clinched a
long delayed gas deal with China in a major pivot of Russia
energy flows to Asia.
"I think the Gazprom contract is probably the most important
economic event of the last decade," he said. "This deal will
allow us to balance between Europe and Asia and thus increase
the competitiveness of our gas."
Timchenko said he anticipated new deals with China soon,
including the companies he co-owns such as gas producer Novatek
. He also expected Russia to increase purchases of high
tech equipment from China as U.S. firms scale back supplies due
Timchenko was co-owner of Swiss oil trading giant Gunvor, in
which the United States said Putin also had investments.
Timchenko has denied Putin had any role or even helped Gunvor.
Hours after the United States imposed sanctions on
Timchenko, Gunvor said he had sold out a day earlier to another
co-founder, Torbjorn Tornqvist.
"There are no legal grounds to have sanctions against me. So
clearly it is a fight against the Russian president. Well, I'm
ready to suffer for that cause," said Timchenko.
(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by
Tim Heritage and Janet Lawrence)