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By Pete Harrison
BRUSSELS May 6 The European Union will play no
part in a Russian proposal that would give Moscow control over
Ukrainian gas pipelines, Europe's single biggest gas import
route and a key to energy security, the bloc's energy chief said
The EU will not get involved for the moment in Russia's
proposal to merge its energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) with
Ukraine's Naftogaz, said EU energy commissioner Guenther
Oettinger, the man in charge of the EU's energy strategy.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stunned Ukrainians
last week by offering to merge state gas giant Gazprom with
Ukraine's jealously-guarded state energy firm Naftogaz.
"It's an offer and proposal from Mr Putin, (and) the
decision has to be made between Kiev and Moscow, and not in
Brussels," European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told
The deal would at a stroke give Moscow control over the
major gas pipelines which run through Ukraine to supply Europe
with about 20 percent of its gas needs. It would also give
Russia a lockhold over Ukrainian domestic gas supplies.
"For today, there is no reason for any activity of the
European Commission," Oettinger told reporters. "First this deal
is not a European Union deal. It's a deal between owners, if it
comes. Let's wait and see. It's too early."
Since the election in February of Kremlin ally Viktor
Yanukovich as Ukraine's president, ties with Moscow have rapidly
improved with accords on gas pricing and a lease extension for a
key Russian naval base in Ukraine's Crimea.
But Prime Minister Putin's proposal was Russia's boldest
Yanukovich said on Thursday the offer had come as a suprise
and Ukraine's government might not give it any thought.
Ukrainian energy minister Yuriy Boyko said that during his
meeting with Oettinger he had stressed that national interests
and those of Ukraine's partners, including Europe, should be
taken into account.
(Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore, Writing by Pete
Harrison, editing by Michael Hogan)