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No attempt to isolate Russia in pipeline plan – EU

  European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said on Thursday an EU-backed plan to overhaul Ukraine’s gas pipeline network was not an attempt to isolate Russia. Russia to help pay for gas transit, risks remain.

Russia will help pay for supplying enough gas to ensure transit to European consumers via Ukraine, but supply risks have not yet been eliminated, Russia’s senior energy official was quoted as saying on Thursday.

“From our point of view, risks remain,” Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said during a meeting with European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Interfax news agency reported. “We have not yet reached guaranteed stability and we are prepared to clarify our position on this issue,” Interfax quoted Sechin as saying. “When we say there’s a problem, we also propose a solution. We have even agreed to co-financing,” Sechin said.

The supply of “technical gas” to Ukraine -- the gas needed to ensure transit supplies are pumped through its pipeline system -- was a major sticking point in the stand-off that led Russia to sever supplies to Europe for two weeks in January.

At the time, Ukraine said Russia should supply this gas free of charge, a demand that was rejected by Moscow. In a sign relations might be thawing, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, visiting Moscow on Wednesday, welcomed Russia as a key partner in the EU-backed renewal of its gas pipeline network.

Moscow in turn agreed not to exact a $2 billion fine from Kiev for using less gas than agreed. Russia was angered by its omission from the pipeline overhaul plan presented by Ukraine in Brussels in March, citing its role as the main gas supplier.

“There was no attempt to isolate Russia,” Piebalgs told reporters after meeting Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko. The intention was to modernize the Ukrainian gas pipeline system, he said.

Piebalgs, in Moscow to discuss energy security, said a new energy pact proposed by Russia this month would not replace the current European Energy Charter, but was a more ambitious overall plan. (Reuters)