MOSCOW, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian natural gas transit system will be filled to the brink if state energy company Naftogaz merges with Gazprom, a Russian energy chief said.
Gazprom has pressed for a merger with Naftogaz at least since 2009 when Kiev's reputation as a transit nation was tarnished by disagreements with Moscow over gas contracts and debt. Russia sends 80 percent of its gas to Europe through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine.
"If the merger takes place, we'll load the Ukrainian gas transportation system to the maximum," Gazprom Chief Executive Office Alexei Miller was quoted by the Platts news service as saying. Miller said the transit network ships around 3.3 trillion cubic feet of gas each year but could increase to 4.9 tcf in the wake of any potential merger.
Miller added that any merger with Naftogaz wouldn't affect Gazprom's plans to build its South Stream pipeline, which goes around Ukraine through southern Europe.
Ukrainian lawmakers last year rejected the merger with Gazprom, fearing it would put Kiev too close to its former patrons in the Kremlin.