Russia will provide trustworthy gas supply to Germany, EU

The chief executive of Russian gas monopoly OAO Gazprom guaranteed Friday that the company's natural gas shipments to Germany and the EU will remain firm and sure. Alexei Miller's comments followed a meeting with Economy Minister Michael Glos, ahead of a planned visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel to Russia next week.

"Gazprom has always fulfilled its legal obligations to German gas customers," Miller told reporters. "Neither will this change in the future."

Russia and Ukraine last week finished a bruising public fight over the supply of natural gas to the former Soviet republic with a deal that nearly doubled the price of gas for Ukraine.

On January 1, Gazprom cut off supplies to Ukraine after the country refused to meet its demand for a fourfold price increase. Other European countries briefly reported drops in their supplies and Gazprom accused Ukraine of siphoning off gas bound for western Europe.

Russia supplies about one-quarter of the gas consumed in Europe, and 80 percent of that goes through Ukraine. Miller said that construction of the more than Ђ4 billion (US$4.8 billion) North European Gas Pipeline under the Baltic Sea was on track, with deliveries to Germany expected to start in 2010.

OAO Gazprom holds a 51 percent stake in the project, with German utility E.On AG and BASF AG holding the remaining 49 percent stake. The pipeline will run from Vyborg on Russia's coast beneath the Baltic Sea to Greifswald in northeastern Germany, bypassing intermediate countries, reports the AP. D.M.