The European Union is trying to shift some of the financial burden of subsidizing the Eastern European countries to Gazprom by cracking down on the gas company, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.
“Europe wants to maintain political influence [in the region], but in such a way that we pay for it a little,” Putin said at a press conference at the APEC summit in Vladivostok.
The European Commission launched a probe against Gazprom last week, accusing it of unfair competition in Eastern and Central Europe. The Russian gas giant is threatened with a fine of 10 billion euro.
Gazprom is sticking to market prices in Eastern Europe, but the European Commission seeks to lower the prices for Russian oil and gas for the region, like in Soviet times, Putin said.
“I hope the situation will be resolved without any problems for either Gazprom or the EU,” Putin said.
The probe is “unconstructive” but does not amount to a “trade war,” he said.
Putin said the probe was not a surprise, and referred to the searches of several Gazprom premises in Europe conducted last year.
“This is the second step in that direction, which we regret is taking place,” Putin said.
The European Commission is investigating three suspected anti-competitive practices by Gazprom in Central and Eastern Europe.
“First, Gazprom may have divided gas markets by hindering the free flow of gas across Member States. Second, Gazprom may have prevented the diversification of supply of gas. Finally, Gazprom may have imposed unfair prices on its customers by linking the price of gas to oil prices,” the EC said.