BERLIN, April 6 (Reuters) - Gazprom will honour its deals to supply gas to Germany, a newspaper reported a senior executive of the Russian exporter as saying, even as Berlin backs tougher sanctions to deter Moscow from further destabilisation of Ukraine.
Moscow has used energy to put pressure on its neighbours and European customers are concerned they could be vulnerable during the crisis over Ukraine, the worst East-West crunch since the Cold War.
“Gas is no weapon, it’s a commodity,” Gazprom vice president Alexander Medvedev said in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, to be published on Monday.
“We’re interested in selling this fuel in order to earn money on behalf of our shareholders,” he said.
“We will keep to our contractual obligations towards Germany,” Medvedev told the newspaper.
Russia last week nearly doubled the price Ukraine pays for its gas, forcing Kiev to enter into emergency talks with European neighbours to boost cheaper imports from the West.
Russia provides around one third of the European Union’s oil and gas and some 40 percent of this is exported by pipeline through Ukraine. It is also the EU’s third biggest trading partner, importing goods worth some 123 billion euros ($168 billion) a year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that no one should doubt Europe’s willingness to introduce tougher sanctions against Russia should the country move further to destabilise Ukraine.
The European Union and the United States have responded to Russia’s annexation last month of Crimea from Ukraine by imposing targeted visa bans and asset freezes against Russian and Ukrainian individuals.
Following the latest Ukraine crisis, the EU has decided to accelerate its quest for more secure energy supplies, reducing dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Russia and Ukraine clashed over gas pricing in 2006 and then again in 2009 when Russia turned supplies off to Ukraine during winter months, causing supply shortfalls further on in Europe. ($1 = 0.7303 Euros) (Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Anthony Barker)