SOCHI, February 28. /TASS/. Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the talks on resolving the dispute around Belarus’ gas debt are tough, though he said he hopes the issue will be settled soon.
"Various options are under discussion. So far, no final decision has been proposed. Hopefully such decisions will follow soon," he said in an interview aired by RBC TV business news channel within the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi.
According to Novak, the talks "are rather tough."
On Monday Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Belarus' debt for Russian gas supplies amounts to $600 mln at the moment.
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.