Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday condemned as “unconstructive” an anti-trust probe launched by the EU against Russian energy giant Gazprom, saying Moscow was no longer prepared to subsidize eastern Europe.
“We believe this approach to be unconstructive,” Putin told reporters on the final day of the annual APEC summit in the Pacific port of Vladivostok, after the EU Commission’s decision to probe Gazprom over concerns it is hindering competition in central and eastern European gas markets.
“We regret that this is happening,” Putin said. “We hope that we can get out of this situation, without losses for any side, through a business-like and well-meaning dialogue.”
He implied that the probe was aimed at making Moscow help ease the EU out of its economic crisis.
“This is caused by many things, but above all the difficult economic situation in the eurozone,” he said, accusing the European Commission of forcing Gazprom to take some of the burden of “subsidizing” economically weak eastern European countries.
“United Europe wants to retain some political influence and wants us to pay for it,” he added.
Putin recalled that under the Soviet Union, Moscow had supplied hugely-subsidized energy supplies to its Communist bloc satellites, but insisted that post-Soviet Russia would only export hydrocarbons at market prices.
“We need to stay on the path of reality today, so that modern Russia does not take upon itself additional obligations linked to the anti-market solutions for the economies of those countries,” he said.
The EU said last week it had launched the probe on concerns Gazprom is hindering competition in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.
The EU suspects Gazprom “may have prevented the diversification of gas supplies” and “imposed unfair prices on its customers by linking the price of gas to oil prices.”
Gazprom has insisted its activity on the EU market and its pricing principles were “in accord with the standards used by other gas producers and exporters.”