Putin tells Merkel gas piped to EU could be siphoned off in Ukraine

Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the audience during a ceremony of receiving diplomatic credentials from foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday of the risk of Ukraine siphoning off Russian gas destined for Europe, the Kremlin said.

In a statement, it said that in a phone call the two leaders agreed that talks would be held involving the Russian energy ministry, gas giant Gazprom and the European Commission on the issue.

Putin said the risks of unsanctioned gas siphoning by Kiev had increased because of expectations of a cold winter.

Most of the gas sold by Russia to European countries flows along pipelines crossing Ukraine. Russian gas accounts for over a third of gas consumption in the EU.

Neighboring Ukraine has not bought gas from Russia for a year because of its political conflict with Moscow, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

In the past, the European Commission has successfully brokered deals between Moscow and Kiev on the sale of Russian gas to Ukraine.

In the past decade gas flows to Ukraine have been interrupted several times because of pricing and other issues. Putin said last month Russia was ready to resume gas deliveries to Ukraine at “any second” if Kiev agreed to pre-pay for supplies.

The Kremlin said Putin and Merkel had also discussed Syria on Monday.