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Russia ready to look for solution of Ukrainian gas issue acceptable for all — Putin

Russia is ready to keep gas transit via Ukraine, the issue is about the term, volumes, the president said
Russian President Vladimir Putin Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, December 19. /TASS/. Russia is ready to look for a solution of the Ukrainian gas issue suitable for everyone, although the decision of the Stockholm Arbitration Court in the gas dispute between Gazprom and Naftogaz of Ukraine was political by nature, President Vladimir Putin said at his annual news conference on Thursday.

"I am confident as the lawyer by the basic education that this decision of the Stockholm Arbitration Court is political by nature, rather than legal. One of the justifications of the award will appear strange for those present here but it is interesting. One of the justifications of the decision of the Stockholm Arbitration Court sets forth, "in connection with severe economic situation in Ukraine." This is nonsense… However, the [court — TASS] decision is present; we should proceed from that. We will take it as a premise and will look for a solution suitable for everyone, including for Ukraine," he said.

Ukraine has not yet repaid Russia the debt of $3 bln received from the Russian National Wealth Fund, Putin added. "A portion of Russian reserved funds from the National Wealth Fund was invested into Ukrainian securities worth $3 bln. The court decision in London has already been present; it is not being implemented," he noted.

Gas relations with Ukraine is a challenging and sensitive topic, the President said. "We want to settle this problem," he added.

The president expressed hope that the gas agreements with Ukraine will be reached, stressing that Russia is still ready to deliver gas at a discount.  "We would be ready to supply gas to Ukraine at a discount, as I have already said, 20-25%. This can be done and then it would be possible to reduce [the price] for the end consumer, instead of increasing it as you [Ukraine — TASS] plan from January 1," Putin noted.

"I think we will come to terms. By the way, we are on the way to these agreements and we will seek to make the Ukrainian side also satisfied with such arrangements. We have no desire of aggravating the situation in the energy sector and taking advantage of it in some way to influence the situation in Ukraine," the President said.

Gas transit via Ukraine

Russia will keep gas transit to Europe via Ukraine, though that route is more expensive, President Vladimir Putin told his annual news conference on Thursday, adding though that the main issue concerns the volumes and terms.

"Despite the construction of new infrastructure facilities, such as Nord Stream, Nord Stream 2, TurkStream, we will keep transit via Ukraine. The issue concerns the volumes of that transit and contract term," Putin said.

President noted that Russia is not eager to conclude a contract for a certain period to be able to suspend transit via Ukraine later. "That is a convenient route. By the way, the Ukrainian route to Europe is longer than the Baltic Sea route. It is longer and more expensive for us, though that is still a good route to central and southern Europe, and we are ready to keep it," he said.

The current contract signed in 2009 by Gazprom and Naftogaz on Russian gas transit through Ukraine to Europe will expire at the turn of 2019-2020. Trilateral consultations between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission (EC) on the issues related to the transit of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine are to be held on Thursday in Berlin. Currently bilateral consultations are underway.

The previous round of trilateral talks was held on October 28 in Brussels. According to its results, the parties for the first time since 2014 brought up the subject of resuming direct deliveries of the Russian gas to Ukraine. Moscow offers a "package solution" that includes a settlement agreement on legal disputes and direct gas purchases at reduced prices. As a fallback, Russia is ready to extend the current transit agreement for the whole 2020. However, Kiev refuses to accept abandoning of legal proceedings and the signing of a short-term contract.