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Gazprom wants dibs on Crimean natural gas

March 19, 2014 at 8:36 AM

MOSCOW, March 19 (UPI) -- Russian energy company Gazprom aims to tap into the more than 50 billion cubic feet of gas available in Crimea, a deputy leader from the region said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea, a peninsula of Ukraine, after the weekend referendum passed to break away from the former Soviet republic.

Crimean First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temergaliyev told Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti the gas company was already expressing interest in development.

"Gazprom was the first to file its request [for development]," he said in an interview published Tuesday.

Temergaliyev said about 53 billion cubic feet of natural gas are extracted each year from Crimea, which he said makes it one of the more attractive prospects in the Black Sea.

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso issued a statement Tuesday saying the independence of Ukraine must be respected.

The European Union, they said, does not respect or recognize the annexation of Crimea.

European consumers get about a quarter of their natural gas needs met by Russia, though most of it runs through a Soviet-era pipeline system in Ukraine.

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