Thursday, April 22, 2010

Russia's Putin: no more gas-for-military base deals

* Putin says Ukraine deal was a "special case"

* Asks energy partners not to request similar deals

By Gleb Bryanski

MOSCOW, April 22 (Reuters) - Russia will not offer gas in exchange for military bases around the world, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, ruling out similar deals to that agreed with ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine.

Russia agreed to cut its gas price to Ukraine by 30 percent in exchange for a 25-year extension of its lease of the Black Sea fleet based on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. [ID:nLDE63K0GM]

"We have many partners in the energy sector. We have no need to build military bases around the world. I would ask our partners not to approach us with similar requests," Putin said. "The Crimea is a special case."

The Black Sea fleet concession, announced on Wednesday by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovich, is the clearest sign yet of a marked foreign policy shift by Kiev toward Moscow since Yanukovich's election. Russia's Black Sea fleet had been due to leave the port of Sevastopol by 2017 before Wednesday's agreement. Yanukovich's pro-Western predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, regarded the departure of the fleet as vital to Ukrainian sovereignty.

Russia has expanded its energy and military reach around the world, signing oil, gas and arms deals with countries such as India and Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in 2008 that Russia would in principle be welcome to deploy a military base in his country, should it request such a facility.

During the Cold War, the Soviet navy also had a permanent presence on the Mediterranean Sea, using the Syrian port of Tartus as a supply point. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko also said on Thursday that the agreement with Ukraine should not be a reason for Moscow to review its gas dealings with other customers.

Yanukovich said his country would save about $3 billion this year thanks to the new gas deal with Russia. [ID:nLDE63L1YV]

Putin said: "The money (for gas) that Ukraine will not pay, and that Russia will not receive, will stay in Ukraine." (Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Robin Paxton)

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