Kazakhstan will transport more Russian oil and gas, the country’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, told Russian daily newspaper Izvestia on Wednesday, a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Central Asian nation.
The Kazakh leader appeared to be warming to the idea of a “gas union” with Russia, which would also involve Uzbekistan. Putin proposed this idea last year, with a Kremlin spokesman last year commenting that it would satisfy the “need for synchronization”, since all three countries sell natural gas. A union would involve support to shipments between the three nations as well as to outside energy buyers such as China.
On Wednesday, Tokayev said: “We are interested in making full use of our transit potential and are ready to further increase the volume of Russian gas transportation.”
He added that the project “will give a powerful impetus to the industrial development of our countries”.
Kazakhstan is looking to shore up its energy supplies after a huge increase in gas prices last year caused civil unrest across its major cities. At the start of this year, a natural gas shortage in the middle of winter also caused protests in Uzbekistan.
The Central Asia-Center gas pipeline connects the two countries with Russia. As part of a two-year deal agreed in October, Gazprom will supply nine million cubic metres of gas per day to Uzbekistan via the pipeline.
Just last week, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Kazakhstan and agreed to a joint declaration promoting nuclear energy partnership. The Central Asian nation is looking to maintain ties with both western Europe and Russia, which is reflected in recent energy policy decisions. A source close to the issue told Euractiv that the “Kazakhs cannot risk being sanctioned by the EU, their main trading partner, by joining force with Russia. On the other hand, aligning only with an EU country like France would send a very unpleasant signal to Moscow.”