Russian President Vladimir Putin will host his annual televised press conference in Moscow today, with 1,895 reporters expected to attend.
While Putin is expected to touch on an array of issues in the hours-long session, the renewal of a 10-year gas transit deal between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz—set to expire on December 31—is likely to feature.
A renewal of the deal, which keeps Europe supplied with Russian gas, is inconvenient for Russia. Moscow was hoping that its multi-billion-dollar Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be complete by now, thus bypassing Ukraine and delivering gas to Russia’s largest European market: Germany. The pipeline will likely be delayed because of US sanctions on companies involved in the project.
Thus, Gazprom must fall back on its transit route through Ukraine and strike a new deal with Naftogaz. Any further delay to NS2 would strengthen Ukraine’s hand in ongoing talks as Russia faces pressure to maintain its market position as the largest gas supplier to Europe, particularly in the face of growing competition from the US.
With Ukrainians’ desire to improve relations with Russia, Putin could offer support for a renewed deal in today’s presser, but will probably refrain from backing a 10-year renewal, which Ukraine is seeking.
A short interruption is possible, but experts believe financial pressures will force a new contract early next year.
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