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EU Charges Gazprom With Antitrust Violations

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, April 22, 2015.

The European Union charged Russian energy giant Gazprom with antitrust violations Wednesday, in a move that could further aggravate tensions between Russia and the EU.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the formal charges a week after mounting a similar challenge to U.S.-based Internet search engine Google.

She said Gazprom abuses its dominant position in central and eastern European countries, where it almost fully controls the gas market. Vestager said Gazprom imposes contract stipulations that hinder competition and allow Gazprom to raise its prices.

Gazprom responded by saying the company "has the status of a strategic government-controlled business entity" and is empowered by the laws of the Russian Federation — beyond the jurisdiction of the European Union.

Vestager said all companies that operate in the European market must play by EU rules.

The EU has been investigating Gazprom's influence in the marketplace since 2012.

Gazprom could face a fine and be forced to allow more competition in the marketplaces it controls.

Last week the European Union filed antitrust charges against the Internet search engine Google for dominating the online search market in Europe.