On Wednesday, the European Union's hard-charging new antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, filed preliminary charges against Russian state-owned oil and gas giant Gazprom, saying it appears to have illegally "built artificial barriers preventing gas from flowing from certain Central Eastern European countries to others, hindering cross-border competition."
Even though Vestager filed an antitrust case against U.S. giant Google only last week, Moscow is widely expected to claim the charges are politically motivated, given the poor relations with Europe since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. "All companies that operate in the European market — no matter if they are European or not — have to play by our EU rules," Vestager said in a statement.
Gazprom called the charges "unfounded," insisting that it "strictly adheres to all the norms of international law and national legislation in the countries where the Gazprom Group conducts business." The EU has been investigating Gazprom pricing in eight EU countries that were part of the Soviet-era Warsaw Pact for two and a half years. The company has 12 weeks to formally respond to the European Commission's allegations.
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