Moscow will start reviewing its relations with the EU if its interests are ignored, Russian PM Vladimir Putin said after an international conference in Brussels on the modernization of Ukraine's gas transit system.
“If Russia’s interests are ignored, we will also have to start reviewing the fundamentals of our relations,” Putin said. “We would very much like things not to reach this point.”
Vladimir Putin has made the announcement at a media briefing in Sochi, Ria Novosti news agency says.
“I’d like to be heard,” the Russian Premier said.
Putin also told journalists that the declaration adopted in Brussels by Ukraine and the EU was “poorly thought-out and unprofessional.”
He added that the main condition for investment success, as said in the declaration, may only be the volume of transported gas. “It is natural,” he said, “but who asked our opinion, whether we will be able to deliver such volumes in the future and whether we will do that?
“If it is a small technical failure in a quite complicated triangle of Russia-Ukraine-EU relations – that’s ok. But if it is the beginning of attempts to systematically ignore Russia’s interests – then it’s very bad.”
Kiev has welcomed the possible participation of Russia, Gazprom or any other Russian companies in upgrading the country’s gas network, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko told journalists.
She added though, that the Brussels declaration was specially signed “to involve the European Commission and international financial institutions in the modernisation.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine's former Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Boyko said that ignoring Russia’s position on the issue of modernising Ukraine’s gas transport network is “inadmissible”.
“In such complicated spheres as gas transportation there’s no place for political intrigues,” he said commenting on the results of the international conference in Brussels.
Boyko believes that “normal work is only possible if the interests of all sides are taken into account – of the gas supplier, gas transiter and gas consumer.”
“As a rule, ignoring the position of one of the three main members of the gas transport chain dooms it all.”
Earlier Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko said Russia has been excluded from talks and the conference was limited to discussions between Ukraine and the EU.
Shmatko said that Russia is not mentioned at all in the declaration as a strategic partner and a key gas supplier to the EU – and that the document nevertheless speaks about gas trade and gas transit through Ukraine’s territory.
He said such things “directly affect Russia’s and Gazprom’s interests.”
Implementation of Ukraine’s gas transit system modernization project is possible only ”with all interested sides participating" – and “the signed declaration is about the integration of Ukraine into the EU law area”, the Minister said.
“This declaration has a predominantly political character,” Shmatko concluded.
Also, the Russian Foreign Ministry has commented that any actions to modernize Ukraine’s gas transit system not coordinated with Russia may lead to failures in gas deliveries to Europe and Ukraine itself.
The Ministry is also insisting that the declaration adopted in Brussels does not take into consideration Russia-Ukraine gas agreements concluded in January 2009, and this may lead to increasing gas prices for European and Ukrainian consumers.
“Russia is calling for the steadfast implementation of long-term agreements on a transparent and economically grounded basis,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko.
Meanwhile, the EU says it isn't trying to weaken Russia’s – and in particular Gazprom’s – position on the gas market. Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Energy at the European Commission, stressed that the declaration includes “very reasonable things on the necessity of investment into Ukraine’s gas transit system.”
The agreement between the EU and Ukraine will provide Kiev with billions of euros to invest in upgrading its outdated pipeline network.
According to the signed declaration, Ukraine obliged itself to provide transparency and openness for modernization investors and equal access to corresponding financial and technical information.
It also pledged to guarantee control over the funds received for the upgrade.
At the same time, Ukrainian former Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Boyko said that ignoring Russia’s position on the issue of modernizing Ukraine’s gas transport network is “inadmissible”.
Commenting on the results of the international conference in Brussels, Boyko said that “In such complicated spheres as gas transportation there’s no place for political intrigues,” .
Boyko says that “the normal work is only possible if interests of all sides are taken into account – of gas supplier, gas transiter and gas consumer.”
He added that “as a rule, ignoring the position of one of the three main members of the gas transport chain dooms it all.”
Ukraine’s gas transport network is the second largest in Europe. Its total length constitutes about 37,600 km. Currently its transit capacity is 290 billion cubic metres a year of input and 175 billion cubic metres of output.
According to the European Commission’s estimates, from 2,5 to 3 billion euros of investment are needed to modernize the network.
Meanwhile, the Russian side believes this sum is not enough. The modernization may require some $16 billion, Gazprom’s Deputy Chairman Valery Golubev said to Ria Novosti.
“Three billion euros is just an initial figure,” he said.