MOSCOW Dec 13 Moscow and Kiev are
considering a deal to divide control of Ukraine's pipelines
between themselves, excluding European participation from a deal
aimed at securing gas supplies to European consumers, Russian
and Ukrainian media reported.
A spokesman for Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom
declined to comment on Tuesday. Ukrainian state energy
firm Naftogaz was not immediately available.
Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller met Ukrainian Energy
Minister Yury Boiko on Monday, Gazprom said in a statement.
Joint control of the transit pipelines, which carry Russian
gas to Europe through the territory of the former Soviet
republic, is seen as a way to preclude their use as a bargaining
chip in price conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, which
depends on Russia for almost all of its gas.
Direct European participation in a pipeline deal had
appeared possible. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said
earlier they had discussed a 40-40 division of control between
Russia and Ukraine, with a European entity as a third party.
Russian and EU leaders will meet for a summit in Brussels on
Thursday which is expected to focus on fiscal stability in the
eurozone, but gas pipelines are a perennial topic between
Brussels and the country which supplies over a quarter of
Gas flows to Europe via Ukraine were cut off in 2006 and
2009 when price talks between Moscow and Kiev failed. The EU
also faces Russian resistance to pipeline access rules designed
to stop producers monopolising transport routes.
Until the November launch of the Nord Stream pipeline, a
subsea route which goes directly from Russia to Germany, Ukraine
handled around 80 percent of the roughly 140 billion cubic
metres. Nord Stream will reduce that by 20-25 bcm per year.
Russia's Kommersant daily cited sources on Tuesday as saying
Gazprom and Ukraine were in talks on joint control over their
pipelines. It quoted Gazprom's chief executive as saying a deal
was unlikely to be concluded before the end of the year.
The Kommersant story followed a report in Ukrainian weekly
Zerkalo Nedeli, which said that the deal on offer involved two
50-50 joint ventures: one to control the trunk pipeline and a
second to control the distribution networks.
Zerkalo Nedeli said they were discussing the inclusion of
Ukraine's underground gas storage facilities, but Ukraine
opposed handing them over to a jointly controlled entity.
Ukraine, coping with rising debt and a big trade deficit, is
struggling to pay its gas bill and stands to win a price cut in
the deal, as neighbouring Belarus did when it sold half of its
pipeline company, Beltransgaz, to Russia for $2.5 billion.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has called the
break-up of the Soviet Union a tragedy for much of its
population, called the 40 percent cut in the gas price to
Belarus an "integration discount". Russian domestic prices
remain far below European ones.
Putin is preparing to mount a bid for a return to the
presidency in a March election while his party faces protests
over reports of ballot fraud in a Dec. 4 election which returned
a majority to his United Russia party.