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MOSCOW, April 28 (Reuters) - The head of Austrian oil and gas group OMV told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that his company has been in a happy marriage with Russia and he wanted it to thrive and continue.
CEO Rainer Seele’s comments will be more than welcome in Russia, which has been largely isolated by the West since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Seele’s comments will also likely be met with a rebuke from former communist states within the European Union as they want to cut the region’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
EU regulators concluded after an investigation that Russia’s Gazprom, which supplies a third of the EU’s gas, had abused its dominant position. Brussels is close to a deal to resolve the case though Poland and eastern EU countries have been pushing for the EU to take a tougher line.
Austria was the first country in Central and Western Europe to start buying natural gas from the Soviet Union nearly 50 years ago.
“It is more astonishing, that after 50 years of our nuptial alliance has concluded, our companies, OMV and Gazprom, are still in love so much that we want to buy more gas from Gazprom,” Seele told Putin in the Kremlin.
Austria is Gazprom’s sixth-largest buyer of gas in Western Europe, purchasing more than 6 billion cubic metres in 2016.
Putin also said Russia wanted to develop its cooperation with OMV.
Russia has recently secured some gains in Europe’s energy market.
Earlier this week, Western partners of Gazprom, including OMV, agreed to provide half the financing for the 9.5 billion euro ($10.3 billion) Nord Stream 2 pipeline, removing a major hurdle for a Russian plan to pump more gas to Europe. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by David Clarke)