Belarus expects Russia to keep gas prices unchanged in 2011 - premier

Belarus expects Russia to keep natural gas prices for the ex-Soviet republic in 2011 unchanged from this year, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said on Sunday.

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

"We insisted that the 2010 prices should be maximally preserved for Belarus. We proceed from the fact that gas prices on the spot market, in the EU and Germany are 15-20% lower than under contracts between our countries. For this reason, we are insisting on keeping the 2010 gas prices unchanged," Sidorsky said.

Belarus currently pays an average of $187 per 1,000 cu m for natural gas supplied by Russia, a price much lower than the price paid by European consumers. The Belarusian side earlier said Russian gas prices for the ex-Soviet republic would rise to about $210 per 1,000 cu m in 2011.

Belarus has made no secret of its desire to negotiate a better price for Russian gas, looking enviously at 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 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 earlier 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.

MINSK, November 28 (RIA Novosti)


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