Uzbekistan Energy Minister Zhurabek Mirzamakhmudov has spoken out in an effort to ease growing concerns over the country losing its energy independence after signing an agreement last week with Russian gas giant Gazprom.

Speaking to local media in the capital Tashkent, Mirzamakhmudov said there is “no talk of privatisation” or passing management of the Uzbek gas transportation system to Gazprom.

“This is a roadmap that envisages measures to import natural gas from Russia. That is, we will study the technical conditions, and then, based on the technical capabilities, if we agree on commercial prices, we will consider importing gas from Russia,” he said.

According to the agreement, Gazprom and Uzbek authorities will study options concerning reversing the flow of gas in the legacy Central Asia Centre trunkline to enable Uzbekistan to received Russian gas supplies.

The Energy Ministry said earlier that trial gas deliveries may begin as early as 1 March, adding: “There is no threat to either the gas transportation system or our sovereignty.”

The Central Asia Centre pipeline was built during the Soviet era, and runs from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before entering Russia. There is also another legacy pipeline, albeit with a lower capacity, that is known as Bukhara-Ural connecting Uzbekistan with Russia, also across Kazakhstan.

Gazprom signed a similar agreement with Kazakhstan earlier in January, promising to deliver gas to northern parts of the country that cannot be adequately supplied Kazakh gas because of existing technical restrictions.

Mirzamakhmudov said Uzbek authorities will ensure that any possible future gas supplies from Russia will be distributed to “all consumers — residents and enterprises”.

Uzbekistan has already experienced two waves of acute gas shortage this winter, with the country’s domestic gas output remaining insufficient to satisfy growing demand, despite government efforts to foster the redevelopment of legacy gas fields and introduce measures to open up the country’s oil and gas sector to foreign investors.

Uzbek authorities have also sanctioned the construction of an expensive gas-to-liquids plant to produce motor fuels to reduce the country’s dependence on imports, mostly from Russia.

Earlier in January, technical issues at Turkmenistan’s largest gas field, Galkynysh, forced a halt to deliveries to Uzbekistan.

Gazprom, meanwhile, has been striving to secure gas supply routes to alternative markets following the loss of its European gas sales last year, as Europe looks to replace Russian volumes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are among the alternative nations being targeted by Gazprom because of existing pipelines linking the two countries with Russia.