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Russian deputy PM says Moscow, Minsk agreed body text of report on oil, gas issue

February 16, 12:16 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich has noted that Russia and Belarus have not yet completely come to an understanding on the oil and gas issue

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MOSCOW, February 16. /TASS/. Russia and Belarus have not yet completely come to an understanding on the oil and gas issue, though the sides have agreed the body text of the report that will be submitted for approval at the highest level, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Thursday.

"We haven’t completely agreed the issue, but indeed the sides have got closer in approaches and currently we’re at the stage of reporting to the leadership since there are issues left that require top-level decisions," he said, adding that the body text of the report agreed by the sides has been submitted to the Russian leadership.

"But this does not mean that the sides have completely accepted the text since it still contains issues that we at our level are not entitled to solve," Dvorkovich added.

On February 7, Dvorkovich said that Moscow still expects gas debt repayment for 2016 from Belarus. Earlier he said that Belarus' debt for Russian gas supplies had reached around $550 mln as of January 28.

Belarus and Russia have been negotiating a reduction in gas prices since early 2016. Minsk insisted on lowering the price of Russian natural gas from $132 to $73 per 1,000 cubic meters and demanded that Russia switch to equal netback pricing. In response to underpayment of around $300 mln for Russian gas supplies Moscow cut its tax-free oil supplies to Belarus by more than a third.

In end-2016, Belarus transferred an advance payment for Russian gas and expressed the hope that the volume of oil supplies would be restored. However, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said that Russia had returned the advance payment and insisted on full execution of the gas contract. At the same time, Dvorkovich did not rule out that the settlement of the gas dispute with Belarus could be resolved in court.

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