* Medvedev was export unit's head for 12 years
* Putin meets new Gazprom Export chief Elena Burmistrova
* Burmistrova helped to clinch China deal - sources
(Adds PM on gas crisis with Ukraine)
By Katya Golubkova
MOSCOW, July 2 Gazprom has appointed a
new head of its export division, effectively the world's most
powerful gas trader: Elena Burmistrova, who was swiftly ushered
in to talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Credited with helping to clinch the $400 billion deal with
China last month, the former Glencore employee discussed
"eastern projects" with Putin and Gazprom Chief Executive
Officer Alexei Miller, the Kremlin said.
Burmistrova's appointment ended the 12-year tenure in the
post of Alexander Medvedev, criticised for his tough style, in a
surprise change of gear for Gazprom, the world's biggest
conventional gas producer and widely seen as an instrument of
Kremlin foreign policy.
Gazprom is enmeshed in a fresh gas pricing dispute with
Ukraine, which has increased friction with the European Union
following similar spats over the past decade which resulted in
supply cuts to many European states.
Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said he
saw the situation escalating to a "full-scale gas crisis" by
Alexander Medvedev, 58, widely credited for Gazprom's speedy
expansion in the West but criticised for clashes with Ukraine,
will keep his role as deputy chairman of the state-controlled
One industry source suggested he might continue to run
Gazprom Export from behind the scenes, but there was no
indication Medvedev was present at meeting with Putin and
Burmistrova on Wednesday.
Burmistrova, 43, started her career in 1992 at Swiss-based
Glencore, one of the world's biggest mining and trading
houses. She joined Gazprom Export in 2003 and had been
Medvedev's deputy overseeing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and new
gas markets, as well as having other duties, since 2011.
Industry sources described her as an ally of Medvedev. "They
prepared the China contract together. She contributed a lot to
preparations," one said.
The deal to supply China with gas over 30 years underlined
the importance of winning contracts with Asia as Europe tries to
reduce reliance on Russian gas.
"Gazprom's ambitious plans for external markets call for new
structural and functional decisions," Miller said in a statement
that gave few details.
Medvedev had been considered a leading candidate for chief
executive to replace Miller, who has been absent from work,
sometimes for months, due to health problems.
But he has been criticised for his tough negotiating
technique at a time when more flexibility was thought necessary
to secure deals in both new and old markets, industry analysts
"Medvedev ... has been criticised by investors for his
overly tough negotiating position and pricing policy with key
European customers, especially after 2008, when Gazprom began
losing market power in Europe," Alexander Kornilov, an analyst
with Alfa Bank, said.
"Investors would prefer Gazprom to be more flexible in talks
with important European gas buyers," he said.
Gazprom accounts for a third of European gas needs but is in
dispute with some of its European buyers over prices. Its
long-term contracts are traditionally linked to the price of oil
but buyers want more emphasis on spot gas prices to reduce
Medvedev managed Gazprom's speedy expansion in the West,
including in LNG markets, but was also linked to the decision
last month to cut supplies to Ukraine in a pricing dispute - a
move that prompted Western countries to accuse Moscow of using
gas as a political weapon.
He oversaw construction of the Nord Stream undersea pipeline
that carries Russian gas to Europe without going through
Ukraine, and was also behind the unfinished South Stream
pipeline and Gazprom's LNG strategy.
Gazprom is now at odds with the European Commission over
both those pipelines, which the EU says violate its laws.
"Gazprom's negative image abroad is mostly linked to
Medvedev's stance, who was trying to defend a tough position (in
negotiations)," said Valery Nesterov, a veteran analyst at
Sberbank CIB. "Gazprom's export policy is changing but not
because of its will but because of its clients."
(Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk,; Editing by Timothy
Heritage and William Hardy)