Ukraine offers Russia, EU stakes in gas pipelines: source
Ukraine has offered Russia a stake in its prized gas pipeline network in a three-way consortium with the European Union in exchange for lower gas prices, a high-ranking source told AFP on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, the source did not say when the offer was made, but said President Viktor Yanukovych would discuss the proposal when he goes to Russia for talks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on September 24.
Russia has long eyed Ukraine's Soviet-era vast gas pipeline network through which Moscow ships around 80 percent of its energy supplies to Europe.
Ukraine had maintained that the vast pipeline network was essential to maintaining its political independence and had before invited Moscow and Brussels to form a consortium to help it upgrade and manage the Soviet-era network.
The new offer comes as Ukraine is seeking to renegotiate a burdensome gas contract, saying it overpays by $5-6 billion annually.
Asked if Kiev, Brussels and Moscow would all have equal stakes in the project, the source said: "Yes, this could happen."
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in the Black Sea resort town of Yalta attended by Yanukovych, the source said the Ukrainian president was also set to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when he visits Russia.
Russia and Ukraine have over the past few years been locked in a series of gas price disputes that interrupted energy supplies to Europe, and the two neighbours are currently embroiled in a fresh disagreement.
Ukraine is seeking to revise a gas pricing agreement its former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko signed with Putin in 2009.
Tymoshenko is now standing on trial on charges of abuse of power over the deal, and Yanukovych has threatened to take Moscow to court over the agreement.
In exchange for its willingness to give Moscow a stake in its pipeline, Kiev would seek a revision of gas prices, the official said.
In the fourth quarter of this year, Ukraine will have to pay close to $400 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. It hopes to reduce that figure to $190-210, the official said.
© 2011 AFP