KIEV, July 4 (RAPSI) - The Ukrainian parliament has approved a law in the first reading that would allow the government to establish a gas distribution system operator that could be 49% owned by investors from the US or the EU.

Some 229 parliament members voted in favor of the bill at a Verkhovna Rada meeting this Friday, with at least 226 votes required.

According to the bill, the operator will have the right to manage and/or grant a license to operate or lease the main gas pipelines and underground storage facilities. The bill also authorized the Ukrainian government to establish an independent operator for the underground gas storage facilities that could be up to 49% owned by European or American investors.

In June, the government submitted the bill to the parliament for consideration along with a bill that would introduce a state of emergency in the energy industry. Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk has repeatedly said that Kiev is open to discussions on cooperation with the EU and the US for the operation and upgrade of the country’s energy facilities. He said that several European and American companies have already submitted proposals.