Russia Ready to Start Gas Talks with Belarus: Deputy PM

Moscow will start gas supply talks with Belarus after the integration issue is resolved, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told reporters on the sidelines of the INNOPROM industrial trade fair on Monday, Interfax reports.

Over the years, Russia has been advocating complete integration with Belarus and creating a union state based on agreements signed by Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka and former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

“So far we are negotiating the deepening of the integration processes. After we complete dialogue on the issue, it will become clear when and how our gas markets will be drawn together into a single gas market,” Kozak said, adding that “it is a complex task.”

Kozak also expressed hope that the decision would be found in the near future.

On June 28, the head of Russia’s state-run gas giant Gazprom, Aleksei Miller said that company and Belarus had not yet started talks on the extension of the contract on gas supplies after 2019, though the company had already received “first proposals” from the Belarusian side and was considering them.

In 2019, the 2017 protocol on gas prices concluded by Moscow and Minsk expires. Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko said in April 2019 that the country had twice officially submitted its proposals on gas prices calculation methodologies to Gazprom, Energy Ministry and the Government of the Russian Federation. Minsk considers the gas price equaling that valid for economic entities of Russia’s Smolensk Region to be fair.

At the end of 2018, Belarusian-Russian relations significantly deteriorated. In late December, after meetings between Lukashenka and Putin, the Russian leader pressed for “further integration” while his Belarusian counterpart insisted on reducing gas prices and getting compensation for Russia’s oil tax maneuver.

Meanwhile, opposition activists who believe that our country does not need the Union State, have launched the public campaign ‘Belarus Go!’ They are gathering signatures for our country’s withdrawal from the alliance.