Reuters reported that Moscow and Minsk recently looked set to avoid a gas pricing stand off at least during the New Year festivities, ensuring energy supplies to Europe during one of the coldest winters on record.
Rows over prices and transit tariffs between Moscow and its Slavic neighbors, Belarus and Ukraine have led to Russian oil and gas supply stoppages to Europe in the past notably around January 1 when contracts expired. But this time Moscow which delivers around a quarter of Europe gas needs and its former Soviet satellites managed to continue providing Russia crude oil and natural gas to the European Union without interruption despite some disagreements.
Minsk has asked Russia not to increase gas prices for 2011 to USD 210 to USD 220 per 1,000 cubic meters as Moscow has indicated. Belarus currently pays just over USD 190 per 1,000 cubic meters compared with USD 308 for Europe on average.
Mr Vladimir Semashko Belarus First Deputy Prime Minister said that Minsk hopes to reach an agreement with Russia for a lower gas price in 1.5 to 2 months. He said that "The first payment falls on February 20 to 23 when we will pay for January. We expect no incidents in the gas sector during New Year."
Low gas prices and financial help from Moscow are crucial for the newly re-elected Belarussian President Mr Alexander Lukashenko efforts to keep afloat the ailing economy.
(Sourced from Reuters)