Summit Backs Non-Russian Oil Route

KIEV — Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine agreed on Friday to speed up preparations for shipping Central Asian fuel to Europe to reduce dependence on Russia.

At a summit in Kiev, European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs backed the so-called Euro-Asian oil transportation corridor project, which includes plans to transport Azeri oil through the Odessa-Brody pipeline to the region. Kazakhstan said it was also willing to pump oil through the pipeline.

The countries of Eastern and Central Europe are banding with Central Asian states to circumvent Russia, the region's dominant energy supplier. Russia, the world's largest natural gas exporter, is increasingly using its energy resources to wield influence over its former satellites. The country is also the world's second-biggest oil exporter.

"Very often, energy issues have political color," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said. "Examples of 'energy pressure' are constant occurrence."