The modernization of Ukraine's gas transportation system could cost $16 billion, not the some $3 billion suggested by European Commission experts, a Gazprom deputy chairman said Monday, RIA Novosti reported. 

The European Commission and Ukraine signed a joint declaration Monday on the modernization of Ukraine's gas pipeline network. The Commission estimated the cost of the necessary improvements at 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion), while Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko put the figure at twice that amount. 

"Three billion dollars is just the initial figure," Valery Golubev said after Monday's international investment conference in Brussels. 

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said on Monday that Russia had been effectively excluded from the talks because the conference, convened by the European Commission, was limited to the bilateral format of discussions between Ukraine and the EU. 

"While recognizing the urgency of the task to modernize [the Ukrainian gas transportation system] and expressing a readiness for any format - bilateral or trilateral - to participate in this work, we were forced to express our bewilderment with the fact that Russia was practically excluded from the discussion of this issue, which is very important for all of us," he said. 

However Ukrainian news agency Unian said Kiev and Brussels intended to involve Moscow in the modernization if Russia wanted to take part in the project. 

"Ukraine, just like the European Union, has the definite intention to attract Russia as a partner in this large reconstruction and modernization program," Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said. 

Shmatko also said Russia had proposed signing a three-way deal with Ukraine and the European Union on modernizing the Ukrainian gas transportation system. 

He said that high-placed officials from the European Commission who attended the conference had agreed with Russia's proposal.


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