MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Moscow planned to keep gas transit via Ukraine irrespective of a number of gas pipelines Moscow currently builds to bypass its ex-Soviet neighbor.
Ukraine is a key transit route for Russian piped gas exports to Europe but a current deal between the two post-Soviet countries expires at the end of the year.
High-ranking officials from Russia, Ukraine, and the European Commision are meeting in Berlin on Thursday for another round of gas talks.
“This is a very difficult, sensitive topic. We would like to solve this problem,” Putin said at his annual press conference in Moscow.
“We will look for a solution that is acceptable for all parties, including Ukraine. That’s despite the construction of infrastructure such as Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2, TurkStream. We will preserve gas transit through Ukraine.”
Moscow has previously said the transit tariffs proposed by Ukraine to ship Russian gas through its territory next year were too high, a claim dismissed by Kiev.
Moscow has also proposed a short-term deal until pipelines aimed at bypassing Ukraine – Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream – are built. Ukraine is insisting on a long-term contract.
Nord Stream 2, which would double piped export capacity to Germany, is expected to start operating next year.
TurkStream’s schedule depends on gas infrastructure being completed in Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.
Putin said on Thursday that Russia would be ready to give Ukraine a discount of 20-25% for gas purchases. “I am confident we will reach an agreement… We have no desire to exacerbate the situation… or use this to influence the situation in Ukraine itself.”
Relations between the one-time allies have deteriorated since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 and pro-Kremlin separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine halted its own direct imports of Russian gas in November 2015.