MOSCOW, June 28 (UPI) -- A merger between Russian energy company Gazprom and Ukrainian utility Naftogaz is "historically predetermined," the chief of Gazprom said.
Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has lobbied for a merger with Naftogaz since both sides brokered a revised natural gas agreement in April.
The Ukrainian government secured gas at a discount in exchange for an extended lease for the Russian Black Sea fleet in Crimea.
Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said following his annual address to shareholders that Naftogaz could gain access to gas fields holding as much as 35 trillion cubic feet of gas as an incentive for the merger, The Moscow Times reports.
Miller said the merger "would increase efficiency for the Ukrainian gas industry and the industries that are large consumers of the gas."
Ukraine ships 80 percent of the Russian gas bound for Europe through its Soviet-era gas transit system.
Naftogaz was once included in a Soviet gas entity. To that end, Miller said a merger between the two energy companies was part of their destiny.
"It's a historically predetermined step," he said.
Opposition lawmakers in Ukraine oppose the relationship with Gazprom, fearing the move puts Kiev closer to former Kremlin patrons.