Minsk agrees to pay gas debt in exchange for loans

Belarus has agreed to pay its USD425m debt for Russian gas consumed so far this year, the Russian business daily Kommersant reported today, citing its sources. In return, Minsk wants to soon receive the third and fourth tranches of the USD2bn stabilization loan from the Russia-led Eurasian Stabilization and Development Fund, according to the sources. What's more, Russia will agree to subsidies worth USD 300mn per annum for Belarus to cover gas costs, said the newspaper, and Belarus wants Russia to increase oil deliveries to its refineries to 26mn tons per annum.

Minsk has not met three conditions of the Russia-led fund for the third tranche of the loan. However, Belarusian FinMin Vladimir Amarin said earlier this week that Belarus nevertheless hoped to receive the third tranche this month. Russia cut oil deliveries to Belarus in H2’2016, punishing Belarus for failing to pay gas bills. Belarus argued Russian gas prices were not fair. A preliminary agreement to settle the debt was reached by Vladimir Putin and President Aleksandr Lukashenko in October. However, Belarus has not paid the debt yet, and Russia keeps oil export restrictions. Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Surikov said yesterday that the dispute would be fully resolved by Dec 20.

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