Minsk says no to natural gas price hike

MINSK, Belarus, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Benefits for other consumers means Minsk should expect Russia to keep natural gas prices unchanged for 2011, the Belarusian prime minister said.

"We proceed from the fact that gas prices on the spot market, in the (European Union) and Germany are 15-20 percent lower than under contracts between our countries," Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky was quoted by Russia's state-run RIA Novosti as saying. "For this reason, we are insisting on keeping the 2010 gas prices unchanged."

Belarus pays $187 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, which Moscow notes is much cheaper than other European countries. Minsk said it expected that price to pass the $200 mark for 2011, though Ukrainian discounts reached in exchange for concessions for the Russian navy are a source of envy.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, however, said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was politicizing the issue ahead of presidential elections scheduled for December.

The government in Belarus, meanwhile, was in talks with Poland and Lithuania to possibly get liquefied natural gas from non-Russian sources in a bid to reduce the dependency on Moscow for gas.

Alexander Surikov, the Russian envoy to Belarus, said in October that there wouldn't be a gas war with Russia this year.


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