Yet there is little sign of a consensus emerging between Russia and Europe over the issue of oil and gas exports. The EU remains wary of the Kremlin’s influence over state gas monopoly Gazprom in the wake of the decision at the turn of the year to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine.

While President Putin’s administration has chosen to make energy a key theme of this first G8 meeting to be chaired by Russia, sources close to Gazprom are busy mounting a rigorous defense of the company’s recent behavior.

Alexander Medvedev, the head of Gazprom’s export business, has given a combative interview to The Times newspaper in which he derides the EU’s comments over the Ukraine dispute as laced with cold war rhetoric.

Energy security is comprehensive. It’s like a coin with two sides. Security of supply cannot be separated from security of demand, Mr Medvedev told the newspaper. He accused Ukraine of taking gas from the transit pipelines passing through the country in breach of agreements signed with Russia.

He went on to accuse the other signatory nations to the Energy Charter of failing to support Russia in its stand against Ukraine, saying that the principle of supply being separate from transit must be upheld.

Many western observers remain skeptical about Gazprom’s motives in the former Soviet bloc. While the firm cut supplies to force Kiev to agree to pay the increased price Russia was demanding for its gas, some believe the move had as much to do with local politics, and the need to punish the country for its ‘Orange Revolution’, as it did with wholesale market dynamics.

Russia’s critics accuse it of double standards, as the pro-Moscow government in Belarus continues to receive sizeable discounts on the price of its gas imports from Gazprom.