Ukraine’s president doubts Gazprom-Naftogaz merger

Ukraine’s president doubts Gazprom-Naftogaz merger
# 06 May 2010 17:51 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday he does not support Russia’s proposal for its gas giant Gazprom to merge with Ukraine’s state gas concern, Naftogaz, APA reports quoting website.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed the merger last week, seemingly catching the Ukrainian government by surprise.

"It was an unexpected impromptu. But it does not mean that Ukraine will consider this idea," Yanukovych told reporters during a visit to the eastern Donetsk region, the UNIAN news agency said.

Since Gazprom dwarfs Naftogaz, a merger would essentially give Russia control of Ukraine’s gas pipelines and the transit of gas through Ukraine to Europe. About 20 percent of the gas consumed in the European Union is transported across Ukraine.

Yanukovych said Ukraine was ready for closer economic cooperation with Russia. "As for politics, our main policy is the protection of national interests," he was quoted as saying.

Yanukovych is more friendly toward Moscow than his predecessor, and he has improved relations with Russia since his election early this year. He agreed last month to extend Russia’s lease on a naval base in Ukraine in exchange for a huge cut in the price of Russian gas.

But he has stuck to previous plans for the European Union to be given a role in modernizing Ukraine’s pipeline system.

"If we decide to begin talks (about a merger) we should involve the EU at a certain stage as the main consumer of gas and the main partner," he said Wednesday in his first public response to Putin’s proposal.