Tough-talking Putin rejects EU proposal on energy supplies

President Vladimir Putin has icily rejected US and EU criticism of Russia's purported use of its energy resources as a political weapon, and publicly rebuffed European attempts to gain access to his country's vast gas pipeline network.

His tough stance, at a one-day EU-Russia meeting at Sochi, on the Black Sea, sets the stage for what may be a fractious summit of G8 leaders in St Petersburg in July, an event being chaired by Moscow for the first time.

One of the G8 summit's major themes is the security of energy supplies, yet it seems Russia and the West are growing further apart on the issue.

The European delegation, made up of the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, and the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, had hoped Mr Putin would at least pay lip service to EU sensitivities about Europe's growing dependence on Moscow for its oil and gas.

They had also hoped he would agree to ratify an energy charter giving European firms access to Russia's gas pipeline network. But in a sign of how strongly he feels he is in the right, he disappointed the Europeans on both fronts. Instead he made clear he would press ahead with plans to turn his country into a bigger energy superpower and would conduct relations with former Soviet states such as Ukraine as he, and not Brussels or Washington, saw fit. Asked about Ukraine, Mr Putin said icily: "As far as our relations with other countries, we will discuss our relations with them directly."

Russia supplies one quarter of the EU's gas needs, a figure expected to rise to more than 60 per cent by 2030, and some EU countries have questioned the wisdom of the arrangement after Moscow cut gas supplies to Ukraine for a few days in January in a row over pricing.

Mr Putin dismissed such concerns while insisting Russia had the right to sell its energy wherever it liked. "We are building up, have built up, and will continue to build up our potential as an energy supplier. And we will offer these resources on world markets. If our European partners expect us to let them into the holy of holies, into our economy, we expect reciprocal steps from them in the most critical and important spheres for us."

Russia wants to sell its gas direct to European consumers rather than through intermediaries, which has alarmed European politicians. The EU and Mr Putin tried to play down their differences yesterday, smiling and openly admitting that there were serious disagreements but that they would try to resolve them.

In a long-awaited goodwill gesture they signed an agreement easing visa requirements for various categories of Russian citizens wishing to visit the EU.

Mr Putin was particularly incensed by criticism from US Vice-President Dick Cheney this month. Mr Cheney accused Moscow of rolling back democratic reforms and of using its energy resources to blackmail other countries but Mr Putin said his allegations smacked of hypocrisy.

"We see how the United States defends its interests, we see what methods and means they use for this," he said. "When we fight for our interests, we also look for the most acceptable methods, and I find it strange this seems inexplicable to some."

Four former Soviet republics - Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan - have formed an organisation called the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development to counterbalance Russia's energy clout in the region but it remains to be seen how effective it will be.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat