The debt accrued by Belarusian companies for gas delivered by Russia has reached almost $600 million, according to Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
"We believe that this money should be paid in full," Dvorkovich stressed in a lobby interview with RBC during the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi.
According to the Deputy Prime Minister, negotiations with the Belarusian side are difficult. "We have a different understanding both of the letter and the spirit of the existing agreement, a different interpretation. We are trying to find a mutually acceptable solution," he said.
"The EurAsEC (Eurasian Economic Community) agreement includes a requirement for a gradual shift towards the creation of a united gas market by 2025. This task cannot be solved in one night on December 31, 2024. It is necessary to advance gradually," Dvorkovich added. He noted that the parties are trying to find common approaches for the beginning of the united market formation.
From the Russian perspective, the first steps towards the common market could be made in 2018. "Belarusian colleagues want a faster progress than we consider reasonable. But in any case, the precondition for any agreement must be a full payment of the accumulated debt," he concluded.
Russia and Belarus have not yet settled an oil and gas dispute which has been ongoing since the beginning of 2016, when Minsk announced the unfairness of the gas price and unilaterally began to underpay for it. Moscow, in turn, reduced the duty-free oil supplies to Belarus, connecting this both with underpayment for the gas and with the incomplete delivery of oil products to Russia.