Even after the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea has gone into operation, Russia intends to continue transporting natural gas through Ukraine. The pipeline should be completed by the end of the year.
"This does not mean at all that Russia wants to stop the transit through Ukraine," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a conversation with German top managers on Friday in Sochi on the Black Sea. The German economy is also pressing for Kiev not to be cut off from Russian gas.
"Time is running out," said Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, Vice-Chairwoman of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy. It is important that gas transit through Ukraine is maintained, because Russian gas can be supplied to Europe reliably and in the long term. In view of the growing demand for gas, both pipelines - through the Baltic Sea and through the former Soviet republic - are necessary.
According to a copy of the Kremlin, Putin stressed that the German-Russian pipeline was an economic project. The government is not involved. Ukraine fears that in future it could no longer be a transit country for Russian gas and that important revenues would thus be lost. "It's not the territory that counts, but the economic usefulness," said the Kremlin leader.
Moscow and Kiev have been negotiating for weeks about the further transit of Russian natural gas through Ukrainian pipelines to Western Europe. But it is also about gas destined for Ukraine itself. The previous contracts from 2009 expire at the end of the year. So far there has been no result in the talks brokered by the EU.
The head of the Kremlin mentioned some problems in the ongoing negotiations. There are "demanding positions" on both sides, he said. "I would like to say frankly that it is quite difficult to implement these (positions). But he hopes that there will be a solution acceptable to all in the end. Putin had recently criticized Ukraine for overpricing.
Putin meets every year with representatives of the German economy. He described Germany as one of the most important trading partners. "We greatly appreciate the pragmatism of the German economy and its willingness to cooperate".
Participants in the three-hour meeting included: Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, Metro Chairman Olaf Koch, meat manufacturer Clemens Tönnies, Managing Director of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) Martin Wansleben, Wintershall CEO Mario Mehren as well as the heads of gingerbread producer Lambertz and weapons manufacturer Umarex, Hermann Bühlbecker and Wulf-Heinz Pflaumer.
"President Putin does not meet any entrepreneurs from any other country as regularly and in such an exclusive format as the Germans," said Matthias Schepp, head of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce Abroad (AHK), to the German Press Agency. The meeting shows how important it is for Putin to have contact with German entrepreneurs, even in politically difficult times.
According to the Eastern Committee, the summit planned for this Monday (9 December) in Paris to resolve the conflict in Eastern Ukraine was also a topic. The German economy has proposed a European Stability and Growth Pact to rebuild the region affected by the war. The head of the Committee on Eastern European Affairs, Michael Harms, said that this had been very positively received.