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US to join Ukraine energy summit in May

The United States on Wednesday agreed to join an energy summit in Kiev later this year, a move that supports Ukraine’s attempts to arrange alternative to Russia’s supplies of oil and natural gas.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, assured President Viktor Yushchenko in Davos the US will participate in the summit in May, according to report by Yushchenko’s press service. Rice also backed Ukraine on its way towards the accession to NATO, the press service said. “ Rice has expressed support for Ukraine’s course towards the integration into Euro-Atlantic structures,” the report said. “The Secretary of State also confirmed the US’s participation at a high level at the Energy summit.” Sending a top US government official to the summit significantly increases profile the summit, which includes countries, such as Azerbaijan, Georgia and Poland, located between the Caspian Sea and the Baltic Sea. The summit is aimed at drumming up political and business support for the project of moving oil extracted from the Caspian Sea to markets in Ukraine and the European Union, bypassing Russia.

Two US oil majors, ExxonMobile and ChevronTexaco, are some of the biggest producers of Caspian Sea oil that is being extracted in Kazakhstan. Ukraine seeks to arrange alternative route for oil and gas supplies to reduce near monopoly dependence on Russia, its primary source of energy. The heavy reliance on Russian energy makes the Ukrainian economy a hostage to its increasingly pro-Western foreign policy course, including its drive to join NATO and to boost cooperation with the European Union.

Days ago Ukraine has officially asked NATO for a permission to join the Membership Action Plan, the last program preceding the accession to the alliance, seriously angering Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Moscow will respond with unspecified sanctions against Kiev in the event that Ukraine joins NATO. The sanctions, analysts said, will most likely include a dramatic hike in energy prices and possibly even restrictions on energy supplies. But Russia’s response may actually go far beyond the energy and economic sanction, and may perhaps include some military response, according to senior Russian lawmaker. “These measures may not have only economic, political or diplomatic nature,” Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defense and security committee in the upper house of Russian Parliament, the Council of Federation, said, Interfax reported. “Russia has a wide range of tools in order to give Ukraine, in the event of its NATO accession, an adequate response,” Ozerov said. “Kiev wants to join the organization that is viewed in Russia as not only political bloc, but also as a military bloc with all the consequences.” (