Ukrainian parliament will back a government bill to allow privatization of the Europe-bound transit gas pipelines as a step toward a joint venture with Europe and Russia, the ruling party said on Saturday.
Ukraine, which transports about 80% of Russian natural gas to Europe, has suggested modernizing its Soviet-era transit pipelines together with Russia and the EU as an alternative to the Nord Stream and South Stream pipeline projects bypassing Ukraine.
"I think we will back the government's decision because the most important thing for us is the efficiency of the gas pipeline network," said Mikhailo Chechetov, deputy head of the Party of Regions faction.
Russia has been looking to diversify its energy routes after a series of spats with Ukraine over the gas price and transit fees in the 2005-2009 period.
Speaking live on Ukraine's First National TV Channel on Friday, Anatoliy Grytsenko of the opposition faction Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense said the lower house would pass amendments to the effect already next week.
At the moment, the law has imposed a moratorium on any operations with the state-owned pipelines of the national gas oil and gas company Naftogaz, its subsidiaries or affiliated companies and gas storage facilities.
A senior executive of Naftogaz said last week that Ukraine's Soviet-era gas pipeline network needed $3.5 billion for its modernization expected to start this year regardless.
The $21-.5-billion South Stream pipeline is to transport Russian gas to Bulgaria on the Black Sea and further on to southern Europe. The $11-billion Nord Stream project intended to deliver Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Europe, bypassing Ukraine and Belarus as transit states.