Monday, November 24, 2008
Russia's Gazprom denies using gas as political tool
BERLIN, November 24 (RIA Novosti) - The head of Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom has hit back at Ukrainian politicians' claims that Moscow uses gas exports as a political weapon, saying the company meets all its commitments in full. Alexei Miller said in an interview with Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper published on Monday that Gazprom has been negotiating gas deliveries with Ukraine throughout the year. "Gazprom has not only agreed to supply to Ukraine 7.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year," but has also decided to postpone raising the gas price to international levels until 2011, he said. Miller had earlier said the price of gas for Ukraine could rise to over $400 per 1,000 cubic meters from the start of 2009, from the current level of $179.5. Last week he said Ukraine's gas debt stood at $2.4 billion, and that talks with Kiev were showing little progress. Miller told the paper that several EU countries have a tendency to "demonize" energy supplier countries, particularly gas producers, but that Gazprom has always fulfilled its commitments on supplies. Alexander Medvedev, a deputy chairman of Gazprom's management board, said Monday that Gazprom has drawn up documents to take legal action through an international court to force Ukraine to pay its debt for gas supplies. "We have developed an unpleasant tradition of seeing in the New Year at the negotiation table with colleagues from Ukraine," Medvedev said, in reference to previous gas disputes. "This year, however, we are hoping for better things." Alexei Miller also told the German paper that Europe has no cause to fear gas supply interruptions should Ukraine fail to pay its debt, saying: "these fears are exaggerated, I want to emphasize this." The worst gas pricing row between Russia and Ukraine occurred at the start of 2006, when Russia briefly cut in supplies to its western neighbor, which transits about 80% of Russia's Europe-bound gas. Some consumers in Europe reported a supply shortfall.