Moscow is hosting a meeting of gas exporting countries, which some analysts say could lead to the creation of an OPEC-style pricing cartel.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to oversee the signing of a charter by an informal group of producers including, among others, Algeria, Iran, Libya, Qatar. Russia insists the aim is to exchange views, but others believe the Kremlin wants to extend its clout on the energy markets. “As far as Russia is concerned, it is probably advantageous for them because if there is a cartel of gas producers, Russia clearly will take the lead. I think they want to be able to exert pressure globally through the exports of gas and the control of gas prices, but right now its difficult to see how they will actually push it through quite quickly.” said Tom Mundy, an analyst with Renaissance Capital. Gas as well as oil makes up the bulk of Russia’s revenues. Rows can threaten supply routes to the EU. In scenes reminiscent of January 2006, Moscow has threatened to cut off supplies to neighbouring Ukraine if a one point four billion euro bill is not paid by January the first. But some say the financial meltdown means the Kremlin has other fish to fry: “The world economic crisis has got the Russian government totally absorbed resolving the problem, so I don’t think this issue of gas pressure is really something that the government is focussing on right now.” is the opinion of Andrew B.Somers from the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. Meanwhile, Kremlin officials have said Belarus has signed a new supply deal with Moscow. No details have been revealed, but the news should reassure EU consumers worried about supplies. Belarus, as well as Ukraine, is a key transit route.