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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Envoy Says Deal Will Avoid Supply Upsets

A top Kremlin envoy said Russia welcomed a pending trade and energy agreement with the European Union that would avoid the kind of supply disruptions that shook Europe in the past 13 months, news agencies reported Tuesday.

"The European Union is interested in stabilizing relations with Russia in the energy sector and this fully meets our interests too," Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin's envoy to the EU, was cited by Interfax as saying.

Questions of energy security are expected to dominate talks, scheduled to be held in Samara in May, in the wake of Russia's cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine last January and oil supplies to Belarus earlier this month.

European politicians have said both incidents severely damaged trust in Russia as a supplier; the Kremlin says the interruptions were beyond its control and part of a long-overdue switch to market pricing for those countries.

Russia supplies one-quarter of Europe's oil and over two-fifths of its gas.

"The European Union wants to be guaranteed against problems of this kind," Yastrzhembsky was quoted as saying. "Hence the high expectations for the partnership and cooperation agreement."

Yastrzhembsky also denied that Russia might join a natural gas cartel after Iran suggested that the two countries could start an OPEC-style gas exporting group.

Yastrzhembsky said all speculation on the matter was invented by Western journalists.

"It's one of the Western media's favorite games: to look for evil in Russia," he told reporters in Moscow. "Any talk about such alliances is part of this game."

(AP, Reuters)