May 24, 2018 / 4:50 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Naftogaz says Gazprom must be part of new Russia-Ukraine gas talks

(Changes dateline from Kiev, adds quote, context)

BRUSSELS, May 24 (Reuters) - The head of Ukraine’s Naftogaz said on Thursday EU-mediated talks over future Russian gas transit via the country to Europe must include Gazprom and must be based on firm commitments.

Commenting on an invitation from the bloc to relaunch trilateral gas talks, Naftogaz chief Andriy Kobolev voiced doubts over Russia’s willingness to engage in serious talks.

He said Russia’s energy minister has agreed to the talks but not Gazprom.

“For the success of the talks, it is important to have Gazprom in the room,” Kobolev told Reuters in Brussels. “I am struggling to understand what outcome we are trying to achieve because ... from what I know they are not ready to give any commitment.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow was ready for talks with Ukraine on continued gas transits after their contract expires in 2019, following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.

Russia’s Gazprom and five European companies, with German backing, plan to build the North Stream 2 gas pipeline on the Baltic seabed to connect Russia directly with Germany.

The pipeline bypassing eastern Europe would allow Gazprom to reduce gas flows through Ukraine, costing it valuable transit revenue.

Kobolev added that the EU’s decision to settle its antitrust case with Gazprom on Thursday would not bring any positive market changes, saying the commitments were too vague.

“It seems Gazprom is getting away with everything,” he said. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Adrian Croft)

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