Lower gas prices for Minsk should go with union formation - Putin

A cut in energy prices for Belarus should coincide with Minsk's integration into the Union state with Russia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

Speaking live during his eighth annual phone-in question and answer session, Putin said Belarus had asked to keep natural gas prices in 2010 at last year's level, though under a contract "the price should slightly rise."

"Perhaps this is possible, but it should coincide with integration into the Union state. The deeper the integration, the more possibility there will be to switch to domestic Russian prices and standards, including for energy," Putin said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged in November a 30-40% discount on natural gas for Belarus in 2010.

"We are currently supplying gas at $122 per 1,000 cubic meters in the fourth quarter, taking into account a 30% discount available this year under a decision that [Russian energy giant] Gazprom took with its counterparties," Medvedev said.

Russia also supplies Belarus with oil at a discount.

However, Putin said Russia was not currently ready to include Belarusian producers of agricultural machinery into subsidized programs.

"Our own plants will be idle then," the prime minister said.

He described as substantial Russian assistance to its neighbor, which received a $1.5 million Russian loan in 2007, borrowed $1 billion in 2008, and obtained two loans worth $0.5 billion and $650 million in 2009, the latter from Russian energy giant Gazprom.

MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti)


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