SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine, March 13 A Ukraine state
gas company Chornomornaftogaz official said its rigs off Crimea
were not occupied by armed men, after a regional separatist
leader said on Thursday that local authorities were guarding the
Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean regional
assembly which is seeking to leave Ukraine and unite with
Russia, had told Russian news agency RIA: "These fields and
platforms will become the property of the Crimean Republic in
their entirety. We are already guarding them.
"They are our fields and we will fight for them."
Another Crimean official said on Wednesday that the region
was taking ownership of Ukrainian state companies on its
territory, including the offshore fields of Chornomornaftogaz, a
subsidiary of the main state energy company Naftogaz.
An official at Chornomornaftogaz in the Crimean capital
Simferopol told Reuters by telephone that there had been no sign
on or around its production and exploration facilities of the
Russian-backed armed groups which seized control of the Black
Sea peninsula last week.
"Our rigs are in international waters and there are no armed
people on or around them," he said. "We have no guards at all
and only our own staff are on the rigs."
Ukraine, which consumes around 50 billion cubic metres of
gas per year, produces about 20 bcm of its own both on and
offshore and covers the rest of the needs with imports, mostly
Officials in the new Ukrainian authorities in Kiev, in power
since protesters overthrew a pro-Moscow president last month,
have denounced as illegitimate a referendum being held on Sunday
that the new leadership in Simferopol expects to give them a
mandate to transfer the territory to Russian control.
Konstantinov told RIA that Russian companies such as Gazprom
should be involved in Crimea's oil and gas production.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Alastair Macdonald in Kiev)