Yanukovych says to form gas consortium with Russia, EU

10:29, February 14, 2010      

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Ukraine will seek to establish a gas consortium with Russia and the European Union, Viktor Yanukovych, who won the country's presidential polls, told a Russian TV on Saturday.

Yanukovych, who beat incumbent Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko last Sunday in the run-off by a narrow margin, told the state TV channel Russia-24 that gas relations with Russia did not move in the right direction during the last five years.

He hoped that the Ukraine-Russia relationship would be restored to a friendly strategic one and Ukraine would properly handle its gas relations with Russia and the EU.

Ukraine, along with Russia, should become major gas suppliers of EU countries, said Yanukovych. Ukraine and EU countries are consumers of Russian gas

A gas consortium will help update Ukraine's gas pipeline network, while the EU will get energy security guarantees, he said.

Russia and the EU, which gets a quarter of its gas supplies from Russia, have begun to build new pipelines to reduce gas transit through Ukraine due to repeated gas disputes between the two former Soviet neighbors in recent years.

The opposition leader also said Ukraine could allow Russia to keep its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol after its lease on the naval base expires in 2017.

Yanukovych is expected to steer Ukraine away from the stance of outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko, who vowed that Russia would have to find a new base for its Black Sea Fleet once the current lease expires.

"We will discuss this issue in the near future. This matter will be decided in the national interests of Ukraine," he said.

Yanukovych added that Ukraine's relations with NATO were currently well-defined and they would not be expanded.

Ukraine's pursuit of NATO membership might "emerge at some point, but we will not see it in the immediate future," he said. "If it does happen, it will be decided by a national referendum."

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