Russia to draft future gas deals with Belarus - Putin

Russia will begin drafting new gas contracts for oil supplies to Belarus in 2012-2015, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

Gazprom's Deputy CEO Andrei Kruglov said on October 1 the company would raise its gas price for Belarus from the current $185 to $220 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2011. The company's CEO Alexei Miller said a week later that Russia had no plans to revise the gas contract with Belarus as there were no problems with the current agreement.

"As far as gas prices [for Belarus] are concerned, we agreed that the fees would be determined by the current contract, in force through 2011. I gave instructions to begin preparing the 2012-2015 contracts today, on the basis of our strategic goals... and taking into account that the "equal-netback" [principle] should be introduced from 2015," Putin said at a news conference after meeting his counterparts from Customs Union states.

Belarus currently gets Russian gas with a significant discount. Under the current contract, Gazprom was to introduce the "equal-netback" principle for Belarus starting from 2011. In other words, Gazprom's profits from selling gas to Belarus were supposed to match those it gets from sales at average European prices.

In 2011, Gazprom was also supposed to raise gas prices for domestic industrial consumers according to the same principle, but in 2008 the plans were postponed until at least 2014 over the global financial crisis.

Minsk then said that Moscow should also keep its gas discount for Belarus in place, as it had maintained low prices for Russian consumers. Russia answered by saying that domestic fees had no relation to prices for Belarus.

Belarus has made no secret of its desire to negotiate a better price for Russian gas, citing the deal Ukraine received after President Viktor Yanukovych was elected in February. Yanukovych moved swiftly to improve ties with Moscow, and discounted gas prices were agreed on when the two sides agreed to extend Russia's use of a key naval base in Crimea.

In contrast to the rosy ties with Kiev, relations between Moscow and Minsk have seriously deteriorated in recent months. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of trying to pass Russia off as the country's main enemy in a bid to boost his popularity ahead of presidential elections in December.

Russia slashed supplies to Belarus in a row over payments in June, but later resumed them after Minsk paid off its $200 million debt to Gazprom.

MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti)


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