* Says 30 pct rise in transit tariffs "unjustified"
* Comments after proposed merger of Gazprom and Naftogaz
* Transneft needs money for an Arctic pipeline
By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, May 4 (Reuters) - Ukraine's increase in crude transit fees this year was "unjustified," Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft (TRNF_p.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Tuesday, in yet another sign of Moscow's mounting pressure on Kiev to give up control of its energy market.
The comments from Transneft chief, Nikolai Tokarev, come just days after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed to merge Russia's gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) with Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogaz to the surprise of many observers. [ID:nLDE63T1PV]
"There are, of course, some problems with transit to Ukraine. Our partners, Ukrtransnafta, last year introduced, as I believe, economically unjustified tariffs, rising them by 30 percent," Tokarev said during a meeting with Putin.
His comments were published on the prime minister's website "And at once, the transit and shipping volumes to Ukrainian refineries fell this year by the same 30 percent," Tokarev said.
Late last year, Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement on oil transit for 2010, in a deal that required Moscow to pay 30 percent more in transit fees.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have rapidly improved after election in February of Kremlin-backed Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine's president.
Last week, the two countries reached accords on gas pricing and a lease extension for a key Russian naval base in Ukraine's Crimea. [ID:nLDE63Q0NL]
Analysts say the deals -- signed to an outcry of Ukraine's opposition -- will save Ukraine tens of billions of dollars thanks to the agreed discounts on Russian gas.
The state-owned Transneft is also struggling to find funds for an Arctic oil pipeline, which construction was ordered by Putin last week.
On Friday, Tokarev said the company was still in search for financing of the 70 billion roubles ($2.39 billion) Purpe-Zapolyarnove link.
He also ruled out an initial public offering of the company -- a rumour, which has been behind a stellar rise of Transneft preferred shares that spiked more than 50 percent to 39,160 roubles during two weeks in late March - early April.
As of 1017 GMT, Transneft's shares on Moscow's MICEX bourse fell 0.07 percent on the day to 31,803 roubles.
The 600 kilometres pipeline will be linked to Purpe-Samotlor pipeline, scheduled to be commissioned in 2012, and will speed up oil deliveries to China from massive oilfields in the Arctic, primarily explored and developed by Rosneft (ROSN.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) and TNK-BP (TNBPI.RTS: Quote, Profile, Research).
The pipeline will shorten the way to the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) trunk, Russia's first oil pipeline link to China.
During the meeting with Putin, Tokarev reiterated that the second stage of ESPO will be commissioned in 2014 after the first stage was commissioned late last year. (Editing by Lidia Kelly and James Jukwey)