"We are now holding consultations with French and Italian partners-the companies Eni and Gas de France-on their participation in a Russo-Ukrainian gas consortium," President Putin said Friday at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma.
Russia has Napoleonic plans for the development of the gas transportation system, including the construction of a northern gas pipeline and one via Poland. "We are now considering the possibility of building additional lines across Ukraine," he added. "This will make it possible for Ukraine to position itself as a major player on the European energy market." In reply to a question on progress in molding the Russo-Ukrainian gas consortium, President Putin said that "this is no easy question, but an important one for the development of the energy sector of Russia and Ukraine." He also reported that at Thursday's meeting with EU commissioners, a lot of attention had been paid to energy cooperation and to the development of the gas pipeline infrastructure.
"We know what kind of problems the European economy may encounter owing to the depletion of natural gas reserves held by some northern European countries," Putin said.
Kuchma, for his part, said that headway had been made in the practical wok toward the creation of the gas consortium. Measures are now being carried out to boost the amounts of gas carried through, he added.