Russian state gas company plays down fears Central Asian unrest could cut gas supplies

Gazprom, Russia's natural gas monopoly, played down fears Tuesday that potential unrest in Central Asia would threaten gas supplies from the region.

"Anyone who comes to power will be interested in keeping the gas flowing and the pipelines working," Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Ryazanov told a briefing. "There are always risks, but we think they're manageable."

Gazprom intends to make up for falling gas output from its Siberian heritage fields partly through purchases of Central Asian gas for resale to Europe. However, analysts say the wave of political change throughout the former Soviet Union, beginning in Georgia and most recently seen in Kyrgyzstan, may spread to gas-producing Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Ryazanov said he expects that, in any case, Gazprom will have to have to pay more for the gas it buys from Central Asian countries as well as from independent Russian producers. Gazprom has already agreed to pay Turkmenistan cash for gas instead of acquiring some of the gas through barter payments.

"It's right and fair that we'll have to pay higher prices for third-party gas," Ryazanov said. "Prices will rise because prices that we resell to Europe will rise. But our revenues will increase as well."

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