KIEV, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Ukraine's parliament approved a law on Thursday to allow gas transit facilities to be leased on a joint venture basis with participation from firms in the European Union or United States.
Ukraine will hold 51 percent and foreign partners will be offered 49 percent in the venture, which would manage both transit pipelines and underground gas storage facilities.
The law was backed by 228 deputies, only two votes more than the minimum necessary for the adoption of the bill.
Suffering a third cut-off of natural gas supplies from Russia in under nine years, and with political relations in crisis, Ukraine is desperate to become less dependent on Russian gas, but at the same time to provide more reliable transit for the Russian gas that Europe needs.
The government has said the joint venture will bring in investment and remove the need for the South Stream pipeline, which Russia's Gazprom is building to take gas to southeastern Europe across the Black Sea, avoiding Ukraine.
Gazprom was not immediately available to comment.
If South Stream is built, it threatens to deprive Ukraine's badly strained budget of the transit fees that it currently receives from Russia for gas heading towards Europe.
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