MINSK Dec 20 Belarus wants Moscow to give it
the same price for Russian gas as Russian regions bordering the
ex-Soviet country pay, Belarussian Prime Minister Andrei
Kobyakov told Reuters in an interview.
The two countries, traditionally allies, have been at odds
since the start of the year over how much Minsk should be paying
Russia's Gazprom for gas supplies following a slump in
global energy prices.
Minsk, which says a gas price set by Gazprom of $132 per
1,000 cubic meters is too high, has been paying less on delivery
since the start of the year and Gazprom says it is owed $270
million for the first six months of 2016 alone.
Belarus, a major transit route for Russian gas to Europe,
has previously said a price of $73 would be reasonable.
Kobyakov, in the interview which he gave on Monday, said he
thought a "fair price" would be the same as Russian regions
adjacent with his country paid.
"If in the regions which border Belarus the gas price is
more than two times cheaper it is obvious that the
competitiveness of the goods which Belarus is producing will be
quite a bit worse than in Russia," said Kobyakov.
"So we are saying: 'We don't mind if you raise prices to
levels matching Belarus ... But if you can't raise prices at
home, then adjust the price for Belarus to yours."
Since the start of July, in a move interpreted as an attempt
by Russia to put pressure on Minsk, Russian oil pipeline
monopoly Transneft has been pumping about 40 percent less oil to
Belarus than in the second quarter of this year.
Belarus has been trying to secure oil supplies from other
sources and has received test shipments from Azerbaijan.
Kobyakov said that oil from Azerbaijan, which arrived by sea
via the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa and was delivered by
land to landlocked Belarus, was one of the most "thought
through" options but not the only one.
Kobyakov also said he did not rule out a new potash alliance
with Russia's Uralkali. Such a tie-up was "possible," he said,
but Belarus would approach any potential deal "very carefully."
"We don't want the situation that happened in 2013 to repeat
itself," he said.
In 2013, Uralkali left the trading joint venture with the
Belarussian Potash Company, triggering a fall in prices around
the world, hitting Minsk's revenues.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky and Katya Golubkova; Editing by