Ukraine's national natural gas company, Naftogaz, confirmed Wednesday that it will consider negotiating direct natural gas purchases with Russian natural gas giant Gazprom without mediation from the European Union. The plan for direct negotiations shows a growing assertiveness in Ukraine over natural gas negotiations with Russia and how much Kiev -- with help from Brussels -- has been able to chip away at Moscow's ability to use natural gas supplies as a political weapon. In addition, the Russians have opened up a tender for the pipe-laying of their proposed and divisive Nord Stream II pipeline, which would transport a greater volume of Russian natural gas directly to Germany....
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