Belarus ready to transfer control stakes in gas, oil industry to Russia

10:51, May 28, 2010      

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Minsk does not mind if Russia acquires the control stakes in Belrusian major Beltransgaz gas company and the country's largest Mozyr refinery, said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Thursday.

"Russia demands the control stake in Beltransgaz gas company. I don't mind if they take it," the Interfax news agency quoted Lukashenko as saying.

"We are ready for it if the Russians will sell their gas for us by their domestic market prices. This is an equal exchange," he said, adding that "the same is true for the oil refineries. Cheap oil for good money."

Later in the day Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko responded to Lukashenko's offer, saying that the idea was "good positive signal."

However, the minister added, "51 percent stake did not resolve the problem."

Also on Thursday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said that Moscow believed Belarus would fulfill contract obligations on the price of Russian gas.

According to the agreement between the two countries, Minsk is obliged to pay 169 U.S. dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. However, currently it pays only 150 dollars.

"This is the price they set for themselves," Sechin pointed out Thursday, adding that "Belarus must pay the previously agreed price of 169 dollars and annual average of 180-186 dollars per 1, 000 cubic meters."

The official said it was unlikely Russia would have to limit the shipment of gas to Belarus. "I am sure the contract will be executed," said the deputy prime minister as quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.

The Belarusian economy heavily relies on gas supplies from Russia. Minsk insists that Russia should sell gas at domestic prices, but Moscow demands Minsk pay international market prices.

At the moment, Belarus owes Russia 192 million dollars for imported gas. Russian gas monopoly Gazprom estimates that, by the end of 2010, the Belarusian debt may reach 500 million dollars.

Source: Xinhua


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