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MOSCOW, April 17 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday it would not be possible for Europe, which is trying to cut its reliance on Russian energy, to completely stop buying Russian gas.
Putin also said that the transit via Ukraine is the most dangerous element in Europe's gas supply system, and that he was hopeful a deal could be reached with Ukraine on gas supplies.
Russia meets around 30 percent of Europe's natural gas needs. Moscow's actions in Ukraine have spurred attempts by the continent to reduce its dependency on oil and gas supplies from the former Cold War foe.
"Of course, everyone is taking care about supply diversification. There, in Europe, they talk about increasing independence from the Russian supplier," said Putin.
"It's just like we begin to talk and take action towards independence from our consumers," he added. Russia has made efforts to forge closer ties with Asia.
Reuters calculations suggest Europe's efforts could slash imports from Russia by around 45 billion cubic metres (bcm) by 2020, worth $18 billion a year, equivalent to a quarter of what Russia currently supplies.
"We sell gas in European countries which have around 30-35 percent of their gas balance covered by supplies from Russia. Can they stop buying Russian gas? In my opinion it is impossible," he said during an hours-long televised question and answer session.
(Reporting by Christian Lowe, Vladimir Soldatkin and Polina Devitt, writing by Megan Davies and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by John Stonestreet)