Belarus asks Gazprom to review gas prices for 2010

MINSK, November 13 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus has handed over to Russian energy giant Gazprom a package of proposals concerning reduction of gas prices for 2010, the Belarusian prime minister said.

Sergei Sidorsky said Belarus has a right to demand equal gas prices for Russian and Belarusian consumers.

"We should point out that when the joint enterprise was created and 50% of Beltransgaz's shares were sold to Gazprom, we agreed on equal profitability," he said, adding "Belarus has a legal right to negotiate on the issue, taking into consideration the slump in [global] gas prices."

He said Belarus has so far fulfilled its gas payment obligations towards Russia.

Earlier, the Belarusian authorities asked Gazprom to maintain gas prices for 2010 at the current level. However, Gazprom head Alexei Miller said the prices would be raised in accordance with a contract, signed by Gazprom and the Belarusian Beltransgaz company in 2006.

A dispute between the two countries over payments for Russian gas took place in June, when Gazprom demanded Belarus pay $244 million in gas debts and warned that supplies could be cut if the sum was not paid. Belarus said it had been paying for Russian natural gas supplies in full and dismissed reports of Gazprom's demand for payment.

The debt arose due to differences between contract and average prices. In the first quarter Belarus paid $250 per 1,000 cubic meters, but by the end of the year this figure should have dropped to under $100. In line with verbal agreements the price should average out at $150 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko then said that the government expected Russian gas prices to reach $166 per 1,000 cubic meters on January 1, 2010 if oil prices remain around the $70 per barrel mark this year. The rate is still well below the average rate Russia charges European Union countries for its gas.

In 2007, Gazprom bought half of Beltransgaz's shares for $2.5 billion.


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