Ukraine will push for solid gas relations with Russia to discourage Gazprom from building pipelines bypassing the country, whichever candidate wins the presidency, the Financial Times quoted a senior Ukrainian diplomat on Thursday.

Improved gas ties with Russia could diminish Gazprom’s resolve to build new export pipelines that will reduce Ukraine’s strategic importance as an energy hub between Russia and Europe, he said.

Ukraine is poised to redraw its troubled relations with Russia after the defeat of Viktor Yushchenko, its pro-western president in an election this month.

Repeated gas rows between Russia and Ukraine have caused supply disruptions in Europe and intensified Gazprom’s determination to build alternative pipelines that would cut Ukraine’s earnings from gas transit.

“The task of any Ukrainian government will be to make [the terms of] gas transit attractive both for Russia and European consumers,” the diplomat told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mr Yanukovich said this week he would ask Russia to commit long term gas flows across Ukraine in exchange for guarantees of stable transit in a bid to discourage Gazprom from building alternative pipelines, such as South Stream and North Stream.

But he ruled out the sale of Ukrainian gas pipelines to Gazprom. Mr Yanukovich has pledged to revise a gas deal signed by Russia and Ukraine last year ending the latest in a string of disputes.

In spite of last year’s gas truce, Gazprom has pressed ahead with plans to build new pipelines to Europe to reduce its exposure to Ukrainian transit routes that carry 80 per cent of Russia’s gas exports to market.

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