Authorities do not release details of talks between prime ministers of Belarus, Russia
Authorities in both Belarus and Russia have not released any details about Tuesday’s talks between Prime Ministers Syarhey Sidorski and Vladimir Putin, which took place at the Novo-Ogaryovo official residence outside Moscow and reportedly lasted at least four hours.
Since that was a working meeting, no press statements will be issued about its results, Alyaksandr Tsimashenka, spokesman for the Belarusian prime minister, told BelaPAN on Wednesday.
Short reports on the beginning of the meeting were only posted on the official websites of Belarus’ Council of Ministers and the Government of Russia.
Under discussion will be issues that will be considered by the Council of Ministers of the Belarusian-Russian Union State in late October and by the Supreme State Council of the Union State in December, Mr. Putin said in his opening speech.
The Belarusian government has devised a program of developing cooperation with Russia in the fuel and energy sphere, Mr. Sidorski said. The program is currently under consideration by the Russian energy ministry, he added.
Messrs. Sidorski and Putin are likely to have discussed the price of natural gas for Belarus and the possibility of Minsk receiving another loan from the Russian government.
On October 5, Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that his country would not provide a $500-million loan to Belarus.
In late 2008, Moscow agreed to lend $2 billion to Belarus and has made available $1.5 billion since then but now looks set to withhold the remaining $500-million portion.
"We are not considering the continuation of the loan for Belarus," Mr. Kudrin said. "We will not make it available on a bilateral basis."
On the same day, Belarusian Finance Minister Andrey Kharkavets said that Belarus would continue talks with Russia on the loan issue. "The agreement that the Russian Federation will provide the loan has not been cancelled," Mr. Kharkavets said. "There was a request from us and we so far have not changed our approaches."
Mr. Kharkavets noted that Minsk had been offered to borrow the amount from the Eurasian Economic Community's Anti-Crisis Fund. "This can be implemented in theory, but the fund has not yet begun operation," he said.
While calculating the 2010 budget, the government assumed that the average annual gas price for Belarus would be $166 per 1000 cubic meters thef wollowing year, up from $115 at present, Mr. Kharkavets said.
It was announced at a June meeting of Gazprom's stockholders that the average annual gas price for Belarus would be $200 per 1000 cubic meters in 2010.
Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller said last month that Belarus still owed the company around $200 million for natural gas supplied earlier this year.
Gazprom expects the Belarusian government to pay off the debt by the end of the year, Mr. Miller said.
Belarus repaid part of its debt in August but still owes Gazprom a "very significant" amount, he noted.