(RIA Novosty) Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he was unaware of who owned the Ukrainian stake of a joint venture with Russia that came to prominence in a deal to end a dispute over natural gas prices at the start of the year.
Russian energy giant Gazprom is known to own 50% of the shares in RosUkrEnergo and Austria's Raiffeisenbank holds the other 50%, but Putin added to the mystery of who owned the stake in an in interview with Spanish media.
The Russian leader said: "RosUkrEnergo is a Russian-Ukrainian joint venture. The Russian partner holds 50%. This partner is Gazprom. Neither you nor I know who owns the other 50%."
Putin told Spanish journalists ahead of a trip to the country, which starts Wednesday, that they should ask Ukraine about who owned this stake.
He also said Russia and Ukraine had been discussing the transition to market prices of natural gas for 15 years.
"Last March [President Viktor] Yushchenko himself virtually offered me a transition to market relations in the energy sphere," Putin said, adding that he had agreed to this proposal.
He said after that the Ukrainian side had been avoiding any talks on this issue with Russia.
"After this, they did not enter into any negotiations with us on the corporate level, they simply avoided meetings, hid," Putin said. "Even when Gazprom representatives arrived in Kiev for talks, they simply ran away. They went off to Brussels, and others went somewhere else. There was no one to talk with. They dragged out [the process] specially, I'm certain, until November and them raised a fuss".
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