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Ukraine's Parliament Approves Draft Energy Bills

Ukraine's parliament has approved a draft law that would give the government more control over the energy sector.

Parliament also approved, in a first reading, a bill that would allow consortiums with European and American companies to operate and modernize Ukraine's ageing gas transportation system and storage facilities.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament on July 4 that Russia was "trying to tighten as many screws as possible."

"You all know that the energy market today is in a super critical situation," he said. "This is the part of the war launched by Russia against Ukraine."

Yatsenyuk added that adoption of the law would directly benefit the country's energy sector.

"Adoption of this law is clearing the way for Ukraine to build the new energy system, where Ukraine is becoming a player," he said.

He also urged parliament to give Kyiv the right to declare a "state of emergency" in the energy sector.

That would give the government the right to dictate to gas companies to whom they should supply gas and for how much, regardless of supply requirements under current contracts.

Andriy Kobolev, the head of Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz, told reporters on July 4 that the legislation could help Ukraine get through the winter without Russian gas by reducing consumption by around 20 percent.

Kobolev said Naftogaz would advise the government to sell gas domestically at a fixed price and force Ukrainian energy companies producing gas domestically to send half of their supplies into the country’s own storage facilities.

After the winter, the companies would have access to the gas and would be free to sell whoever they wanted.

Parliament initially rejected the government's energy proposals, but restarted discussion and took a vote on the two draft laws on July 4 after speaker Oleksander Turchynov warned that without them many Ukrainians could be left without heating during the upcoming winter.

Russia -- Kyiv’s main supplier of gas and natural gas for Europe via Ukraine -- halted supplies to Ukraine in June in a dispute over unpaid bills.

Moscow has hinted it will take retaliatory trade measures against Ukraine over its signature last month of a free trade deal with the EU.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Xinhua
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