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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 21:01 GMT
Gazprom export sales rise by 43%
Russian flag outside the headquarters of Gazprom
Gazprom is owned by the Russian government
Russia's controversial state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom has said that its export revenues soared 43% last year to a record $37.2bn (19bn).

The firm, which supplies a quarter of Europe's gas needs, benefited from higher gas wholesale prices in 2006.

Looking ahead, Gazprom said it expects fresh record revenues in 2007.

The firm hit the headlines recently after it threatened to cut supplies to Belarus and Georgia. It made a similar threat to Ukraine in 2005.

'Trust fears'

The disputes led to accusations that the Russian government is using Gazprom as a foreign policy tool to control its neighbours.

Although Moscow has strongly denied the accusations, it has led to concern in western Europe over the reliability of Gazprom's supplies.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said last month the uncertainty made it difficult to build a relationship with Russia based on trust.

Gazprom has also been criticised for its actions within Russia.

Global economist think-tank Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in November that it was concerned at the extent to which Gazprom was buying up private domestic energy firms.

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