Russian parliament ratifies gas pipeline agreement

A planned natural gas pipeline will help Russia preserve its dominance over exports from Central Asia and weaken a Western-backed, rival project, the country's energy minister said Friday. Sergei Shmatko's comments about the struggle with the West over energy resources and export routes came in Russia's parliament, which voted unanimously to ratify the pipeline deal with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The agreement signed last year calls for the reconstruction and expansion of existing pipelines, as well as some new construction, to boost capacity to deliver gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan into Russia. Moscow sells its own gas and Central Asian gas in Europe, which relies heavily on Russian imports.