BRUSSELS, April 27 (UPI) -- Charges against Russian energy company Gazprom stem from Lithuania's government, not energy companies, a Russian envoy told a European news outlet.
The European Commission last week said it suspected Gazprom was violating antitrust rules by abusing its position in the Central and Eastern European markets. The European commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said Gazprom was preventing gas from flowing from "certain Central Eastern European countries" and thereby prohibiting competition.
"What puzzled me from the beginning was that the whole case was initiated not by some economic entities, not by EU-based energy companies which could have theoretically complained about those contracts, but by the government of a member state," he was quoted as saying in an interview published Monday.
The European market gets about a quarter of its gas needs met by Russia, though most of that runs through Soviet-era transit networks in Ukraine. Lingering contractual disputes between Kiev and Moscow, and more recent turmoil in eastern Ukraine, adds a layer of risk to conventional gas delivery options.
In January, Ukrainian company Naftogaz said it signed a deal with its Polish counterparts, Gaz-System, to build a pipeline between the two countries. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the deal would ensure his country remained an important hub in the European energy market.
It's not a reverse pipeline, "but it means an access to gas from the liquefied natural gas terminals that have already been built in [Lithuania] and Poland," he said.
The government in Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, has been at odds with Gazprom over its gas prices. European officials in 2013 said Lithuania was among the Baltic countries expressing concern about abuses in the region's natural gas sector.