Imports of gas `to be 15% dearer'

Russian state-controlled gas group Gazprom plans to raise the price of supplies to Europe next year by almost 15%, a Russian newspaper says.

Russian state-controlled gas group Gazprom plans to raise the price of supplies to Europe next year by almost 15%, a Russian newspaper says.

Vedomosti, citing a draft 2007 budget for the company, said Gazprom forecasts gas prices of £150 per 1,000 cubic meters for shipment to Europe next year. This year, it is about £133.

Gazprom forecasts the higher prices should yield total revenue of £51bn, with export revenues accounting for nearly half that - £24bn, Vedomosti reported.

The company plans to sell 157.8 billion cubic metres to European countries in 2007.

The forecast rise in prices is likely to stoke worries in European capitals, where governments are watching Moscow's sway over European energy supplies with growing concern.

Russia provides 30% of EU energy imports, including 44% of gas imports.

EU leaders have pressed Russia to sign the Energy Charter, an international treaty that would respect fair trade in energy and offer foreign investors fair access to Russian oil and gas deposits and export pipelines.

However, at a summit with EU leaders in the Finnish capital Helsinki last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin restated his opposition to giving foreign companies easy access to his country's energy sources or breaking up oil and gas state monopolies.

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