SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Tuesday for a swift conclusion to a European Union investigation of export monopoly Gazprom's business in Europe, saying Moscow wanted smooth ties with customers in Europe but could also find buyers elsewhere.
Facing a potentially drawn out anti-trust investigation into the state-controlled company that is a crucial earner for Russia's budget, Putin mixed promises to cooperate constructively with a warning that Europe is not the only place Russia can sell its gas.
"We would like all questions that remain unclear for our partners in the European Commission to be cleared up as quickly as possible, so that we can work together smoothly," Putin said. "I hope that is how it will be."
"The main consumers of gas are in Western Europe, as is known. Naturally we need to do everything (to ensure) that there are no difficulties, that problems do not arise with our European partners," Putin told journalists after a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.
"Of course we will seek opportunities to sell our products on other markets," Putin added, portraying Asia-Pacific leaders he hosted at a weekend summit in the east coast city of Vladivostok as eager for more Russian energy.
"They are waiting for Russia with its energy resources there," he said. "We will do liquefied natural gas, we will offer our energy resources on world markets."
On Sunday, Putin ruled out a trade war over the European Commission's anti-trust investigation, which focused on Gazprom's policy of linking contract gas prices to oil prices, suspicions that Gazprom was hindering the free flow of gas in Europe and preventing supply diversification.
The EU's move marked the formal launch of an investigation that began with raids of Gazprom subsidiaries in Europe a year ago. Since then, the company has made substantial price concessions in its oil-linked contracts to most of its major European customers.
(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin; writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by James Jukwey)
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