MOSCOW, March 4 (UPI) -- Russian energy company Gazprom said the South Stream natural gas pipeline provides a buffer against geopolitical risks in Ukraine.
The company was quoted by Russian news agency ITAR-Tass as saying it couldn't rule out a possible disruption to gas supplies to Europe because of simmering tensions over Ukraine.
To reduce its export risks, the company aims to "further invest into other export-oriented projects such as South Stream and will enhance our liquefied natural gas production and export capacity," a company spokesman was quoted as saying Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his weekend decision to deploy troops to Crimea was a bid to protect Russia's national interests. The move sparked a backlash from Western officials worried about Ukraine's sovereignty.
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in November suspended efforts to sign free trade and association agreements with the European Union. His decision was met with widespread protests and a diplomatic frenzy from European officials.
Gazprom in 2009 disrupted natural gas supplies to Ukraine in response to a contractual dispute. That left European consumers in the cold because, while Europe gets about 20 percent of its natural gas from Russia, the majority of it runs through a Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine.