Moscow hopes EU's Gazprom antitrust inquiry will not damage energy cooperation

Moscow is seriously troubled by the European Union's investigation into whether Russian gas giant Gazprom has violated EU antitrust laws and hopes that Brussels will not allow it to damage relations with Russia in the energy sector.

"We are closely following the antimonopoly investigation. It is a matter of serious concern for us," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Interfax.

"We very much hope that in any case, decisions will be adopted that will help maintain the strategic nature of relations between Russia and the EU in the energy sector," he said.

"What I mean is that pressure is being put on a key pillar of EU-Russian relations - energy cooperation, which has always served as a foundation for cooperation in the economy and other areas," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.

"No one has ever doubted the sides' ability to continue cooperating in this sphere, which is exceptionally important for security in Europe," he said.

The Russian-EU strategic relationship in the energy sector has been a key element of modern Europe's energy security, Grushko said.

"Europe's economic image cannot be maintained without absolutely predictable and transparent cooperation procedures, which are based on common rules," he said.

Russia has submitted a whole range of proposals aimed at giving a firmer legal framework to its relations with the EU, Grushko said, adding that Brussels is currently analyzing these ideas.

"We are committed to continuing our energy dialogue and further strengthening our energy cooperation, he said.

Grushko is a member of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's delegation attending the UN General Assembly session in New York. Lavrov is expected to meet with EU Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Catherine Ashton on the sidelines of the event.

The gas issue could be included in the meeting's agenda.

In September, the European Commission announced a formal investigation into whether Gazprom violated EU antitrust laws, accusing the Russian state controlled gas company of dividing gas markets, thus hampering unhindered gas deliveries to EU member countries. The European Commission also suspects Gazprom of obstructing the diversification of gas shipments and setting unfair prices for its clients, tying them to prices for oil.

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