Gazprom official comments on integration with Belarus

Gazprom is unsatisfied with the current level of "gas integration" with Belarus, Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Ryazanov declared at today's parliamentary hearings in the State Duma devoted to the legal aspects of integration between Belarus and Russia. According to him, there is no real integration in the gas sector currently.

Ryazanov mentioned that Belarus was buying Russian gas at $21 for every 1,000 cubic meters and "it cannot manage payments for gas even at such a low price". At the same time, Belarus is selling gas to its consumers at $42. It means that "Gazprom and the Russian budget have financed the Belarusian economy with more than $2bn" since 1998, the official stressed.

He also noted that Belarusian debts for gas supplies provided in 2002 have amounted to $80m.

However, "all our proposals on closer integration are resisted by Belarus", the Deputy CEO admitted. In particular, it concerns privatization of Beltransgaz. If there are no real steps in this direction, Gazprom will have to find other ways of transporting gas roundabout Belarus, he added. It could be the construction of a gas pipeline through Ukraine or on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Nevertheless, Gazprom is planning to continue gas supplies to Belarus in the same volume (10.2bn cubic meters) in 2003 and at the same prices that are stipulated by a contract signed in 2002.

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