Gazprom chief Aleksei Miller (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
March 30, 2006 -- Russia's Gazprom said today it would raise natural gas prices for Belarus to European levels by 2007.
Gazprom head Aleksei Miller told Belarusian Energy Minister Alyaksandr Ageyev about the planned change at a meeting in Moscow today.
Gazprom said Minsk would respond by the end of April.
Belarus, a close Russian ally, currently receives gas at a subsidized price of $47 per 1,000 cubic meters -- far below prices paid by customers in Europe and Ukraine.
Under a contract signed in December, Gazprom agreed to sell Belarus 21 billion cubic meters in 2006.
Belarus is heavily dependent on gas imports.
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- Ukraine consumes 70 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year. It produces 20 bcm of its own gas, has a signed contract to import 40 bcm from Turkmenistan, and in 2005 was getting 29 bcm from Russia as payment for transit of Russian gas.
- Ukraine sells some 7 bcm of gas a year to the West and places some in underground storage facilities. These facilities can hold 34.5 bcm.
Ukraine is the sixth-largest consumer of gas
in the world and uses more gas than Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia combined.
- Russia has proven gas reserves of 47 trillion cubic meters (tcm) -- the largest in the world ahead of Iran and Qatar.
Russia sells approximately 160 bcm to Europe each year.
By 2015, Europe is expected to import 300 bcm, or 40 percent of its projected needs from Russia.
Russia's Gazprom is the world's largest gas company.
It is the only company allowed by Russian law to export gas outside the borders of the CIS. It also owns the gas-transportation system and most of the gas fields in Russia.
The Russian state is Gazprom's majority shareholder
, with a 51 percent share. The company's ownership rights changed as of the beginning of 2006, with Gazprom stock being sold on the open market. The Russian state, however, will continue to hold the majority stake.