Russia's Prime Minister: Russia, Belarus Have Settled Gas Problem

According to the statement made by Mikhail Kasyanov, Russia's Prime Minister, after his meeting with Gennady Novitski, his Belorussian colleague, Russia and Belarus have fully settled the problem around the supplies of Russian gas. Mr. Kasyanov said the head of the Belorussian government had acknowledged the over USD 80 million gas debt and promised to have it repaid within the shortest possible time.

Mr. Kasyanov said that 'The tensions around the supplies of Russia's gas to Belarus had been due entirely to the Government of Belarus having been misinformed and, therefore, believing that the country's companies owed nothing for gas. Russia has presented to the government of Belarus documents proving otherwise.'

Belarus intends to apply the USD40 million instalment of the state loan granted by Russia to the partial repayment of this debt. To assure that the republic's gas requirements are fully satisfied, Belorussian government intends to sign agreements with other Russian supplies besides Gazprom, for instance, the ITERA group. As to Gazprom, Mr. Kasyanov said, the company had completely exhausted the amount of gas due to Belarus during this year under existing contracts.

Russia's Prime Minister also said that the President and government of Belarus would very shortly eliminate the present limitations as to the privatisation of Beltransgaz, a state-owned unitary company. This will allow establishing a Russian-Belorussian joint venture to handle the common gas transportation system. He said that a draft law to this effect would be introduced to the Belorussian parliament as soon as on Tuesday. In his turn, Mr. Novitsky said that the creation of the joint venture and common gas transportation system would be completed, in accordance with the existing bilateral agreement, by July 1, 2003.

The Prime Minister of Russia also said that the next planned session of the Russian-Belorussian Union State should take place early in December this year. By that time, contracts for the supplies of Russia's gas to Belarus in 2003 should have been signed with Gazprom and other Russia's independent natural gas suppliers. Also by that time, Belarus' fuel balance should be formulated to make absolutely clear how much gas the republic would need over the coming year.

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