Putin proposes merging gas monopolies of Russia, Ukraine

Putin proposes merging gas monopolies of Russia, Ukraine

Addressing a joint press conference after his yesterday's talks with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin proposed the merger of Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz.

Azarov, who earlier agreed to the formation of a joint nuclear venture between Russia's Atomenergomash and Ukraine's Turboatom, was visibly surprised when Putin announced:  "We are ready to do the same in the gas sphere.

I have suggested merging Gazprom and Naftogaz." Azarov said he will go back to Kiev and think over the idea, which many in Ukraine see as the loss of the sovereignty.
Ukrainian UNIAN news agency reported that this issue was not discussed during their meeting and this idea was an "impromptu move" on Putin's part.

Ex-Ukrainian premier and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost this year's presidential poll to pro-Moscow candidate Viktor Yanukovych, said Russia is plotting to deprive Ukraine of sovereignty by proposing the merger.

"Only a nationwide resistance can stop this. We need to form a coordinating committee - Committee for Ukraine's protection. We need to work out an effective plan for ousting Yanukovych," Tymoshenko said in a statement posted on her official website.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said his company and Naftogaz were also ready to consider an assets swap and that Russia would be interested in investing in Ukraine's gas transportation system, while Ukraine wants access to Russian energy resources.

Miller said that talks would commence after May 10 when the May Day and Victory Day celebrations would be over in both the countries.

In her statement Tymoshenko called for mass protest rally on May 11 in front of the Supreme Rada (Parliament).

Earlier on April 21 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during his maiden Ukraine visit signed a breakthrough 'gas for base' deal providing 30 percent discount to Kiev on gas price in exchange for the extension of lease of Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea till 2042.

To carry forward Moscow's thrust to tear Ukraine away from its NATO ambitions, Putin said Russia's VTB bank was ready to grant Ukraine a loan of up to USD 500 million to prop its budget spending.

"The merger idea was thoroughly thought through and reflects the extent to which Russia is ready to integrate with Kiev," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

Peskov said Moscow did not expect an immediate response from Kiev and that Ukraine was yet to study Putin's proposal.

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