The head of Russian natural-gas company Gazprom says a new pipeline across the Baltic Sea to Germany will boost its share of the European market and decrease the amount of gas it pumps westward via Ukraine.
Gazprom chief executive Aleksei Miller spoke in an interview with the Reuters news agency, which published a report on his remarks on April 25.
The European Union is way of overreliance on Russian gas, which many in the West believe the Kremlin seeks to use as a lever of influence abroad.
But state-controlled Gazprom's plan to deliver more gas to Europe starting in 2019 got a boost when its Western partners agreed on April 23 to provide half of the financing for the 9.5 billion euro ($10.3 billion) Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Gazprom sold a record 179 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to Europe in 2016, a figure that was pushed up by lower prices and cold weather.
Miller said that "we can expect new records this year and Gazprom's European market share is poised to rise."
He also said that "Russia's market share will be rising" in the longer term, with domestic output in Europe decreasing and Nord Stream 2 expected to begin operating.
Eastern European and Baltic countries say the new pipeline will make the European Union a hostage to Moscow.
Critics also say that Russia wants to punish transit nation Ukraine, which has become its geopolitical foe following Moscow's seizure of Crimea in 2014.
Gazprom has threatened in the past to cut all supplies to Europe via Ukraine once Nord Stream 2 is built and when its transit agreement with Kyiv expires in 2020.
Miller told Reuters that supplies via Ukraine might not stop entirely, saying that Gazprom was "ready for talks" on the possibility of delivering volumes of "around 15 bcm a year for countries which border Ukraine."
With reporting by Reuters