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In this pool photograph distributed by Sputnik agency, Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during a meeting with the President of Kazakhstan in Novo-Ogaryovo on October 7, 2023. (Photo by Vyacheslav PROKOFYEV / POOL / AFP)

MOSCOW, Russia– Russian Vladimir Putin on Saturday announced the start of gas supplies to Uzbekistan via Kazakhstan, a boost for Russia's industry hit by a flurry of Western sanctions over the offensive in Ukraine.

Despite being home to a wealth of natural  resources including gas, the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan has faced energy shortages.

Moscow meanwhile relies heavily on energy revenues but has seen export plummet amid since the  offensive.

"This is the largest trilateral energy project" between the three ex-Soviet countries, Putin said, after formally launching the shipment.

He was hosting a meeting in Moscow with his Uzbek and Kazakh counterparts, Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

"The timely implementation of such... project shows that Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are capable of tackling the most complex and ambitious tasks," Putin said.

"Kazakhstan will be able to solve the issue of gasification of its northern and eastern regions" while Uzbekistan will "gain another source of energy".

Putin added that the leaders would during the afternoon discuss further cooperation in the energy sector as a whole.

Russia's offensive against Ukraine has rattled nerves in Central Asian nations, including Kazakhstan, which has sought to distance itself from Moscow.

But the former Soviet states retain close political and economic ties with Russia.

Russian gas exports decreased by 21.5 percent in 2022 as the European Union, once the largest buyer of Russian gas, drastically reduced imports.