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Belarus PM arrives in Moscow for $1.5 bln gas loan

Belarus’s premier is arriving in Moscow Monday to secure a $1.5 billion loan to cover a $450 million debt for Russian gas caused by price hikes introduced earlier this year, a government spokesman said.

Sergei Sidorsky is coming to Moscow after Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Friday the government had unofficially approved the loan and might make relevant amendments to the federal budget. Russia doubled the gas price for Belarus to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters from January 1 amid an energy row. But Minsk, which had enjoyed subsidized prices ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, continued to pay only $55. Its debt is now $450 million for the H1 of this year.

On June 4, Russian energy giant Gazprom, which has set its sights on Belarus’s Europe-bound pipelines, paid Minsk $625 million for the first 12.5% stake in the Beltransgaz company. This was the first of four installments the Russian company will make until 2010 to acquire 50% in the pipeline company.

Gazprom and Beltransgaz are currently in talks over restructuring the Belarusian debt or delaying the payment. The Belarusian economy has been heavily dependent on low Russian energy prices. (