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MINSK, March 31. /TASS/. Belarus disagrees it is in debt for Russian gas supplies, Belarusian Prime Minister’s spokesman Vladislav Sychevich told TASS Friday.
"As for statements of the Energy Minister Alexander Novak that Belarus is not prepared to settle the so-called debt for Russian gas the Belarusian side does not view those funds as a debt," he said.
On Thursday, Novak said that Belarus is not ready to repay the debt for Russian gas, which now exceeds $700 million, unless Russia grants preferences both in terms of the price and the mechanism of price formation.
According to Sychevich, the statement of Russia’s Energy Minister is non-constructive. "Particularly, Mr. Novak noted that Minsk’s position on the gas dispute is not constructive enough. In this regard we consider the Minister’s statement, which is at odds with what was discussed at the meeting, to be non-constructive," he said, adding that "this kind of statement looks more like propaganda than factual findings."
Minsk has repeatedly claimed that it is interested in settling the dispute as soon as possible, the spokesman said. "Meanwhile, the Belarusian side insists on either unconditional compliance with the intergovernmental agreement on gas price formation signed in November 2011 and a related regulatory base, or finalizing mutually acceptable changes into the mentioned agreement by the sides," he added.
Sychevich said that following the Thursday meeting heads of Russian and Belarusian governments agreed to continue talks "in a constructive way in order to achieve a mutually acceptable result."
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.