President Vladimir Putin said Aug. 20 that Russia was ready to continue supplying gas to Europe via Ukraine after 2024, but that Moscow needed clarity on future European gas demand before agreeing to any new transit deal.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Moscow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin also said Russia would continue gas transit via Ukraine after the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is finished, adding that there were just 15 km of the link left to lay.
Russia's state-controlled Gazprom in late 2019 agreed to transit 65 Bcm of gas via Ukraine in 2020 and 40 Bcm/year in the 2021-2024 period, well down on a recent transit peak of 94 Bcm in 2017.
Putin said Russia would continue to respect its current contractual obligations with regard to Ukrainian transit, even after Merkel steps down as Chancellor after the German elections in September and Nord Stream 2 is completed.
"Russia is going to carry out all of its obligations under the contract," he said. "We will always respect our obligations."
Putin added that even after 2024, when its current five-year deal with Kyiv expires, Russia was "ready to continue to transit gas through Ukraine."
But, he said, Russia needed to know what the volume of gas to deliver through Ukraine would be and for how long. "For this we must receive an answer, including from our European partners -- how much are they ready to buy from us?" Putin said.
"We cannot sign a transit contract if we do not have supply contracts to our consumers in Europe," he said.
In view of Europe's ambitions for a greener energy system, Putin said the question was: "How much of our gas will Europe buy?" This, he said, was a subject for discussion.
"This is a purely commercial issue," he added.
Putin also said Nord Stream 2 was a "modern, environmentally friendly" pipeline system that had reduced carbon emissions.
He added that Nord Stream 2 was also significantly shorter, and cheaper, than the Ukrainian route.
Merkel was in Moscow for her final working visit as Chancellor, with the talks coming less than a month after Berlin signed an energy security pact with the US designed to prevent Russia using energy as a geopolitical weapon.
The German government on Aug. 18 appointed Georg Graf Waldersee as the government's special representative for Ukrainian gas transit, which followed the appointment by Washington earlier this month of Amos Hochstein to serve as the State Department's senior adviser for energy security.
The appointments of Graf Waldersee and Hochstein are important steps as Berlin and Washington look to double down on efforts to achieve the extension of the Ukraine gas transit deal, which expires at the end of December 2024.
The German government said Graf Waldersee would "mediate and provide advice" to Russia and Ukraine, as well as to the European Commission, the US and, if necessary, third countries.
The aim, it said, is to achieve an extension of the gas transit contract "that does justice to the interests of all sides."