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4 Apr, 2008 02:10

Catch a train from Vienna to Beijing... via Siberia

Russian, Slovak and Austrian companies could soon be joining forces to build a railway linking Central Europe with Russia’s Trans- Siberian line. It is one of several ideas set to be tabled during Prime Minister Zubkov’s visit to Bratislava.

Energy remains the main focus of Russian-Slovak economic relations. The country buys 90 per cent of its fuel from Russia.

During his visit to Bratislava, Russia's Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov confirmed plans to renew the existing gas contracts with Slovakia that expire this year.

In turn, Bratislava wants to buy back a stake in its oil transport network.

“We have confirmed a political willingness to continue long-term deliveries of gas and oil to Slovakia. The Slovakian side has shown its readiness and desire to buy back 49% of the Transpetrol company,” Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico, said.

The stake was bought by Yukos in 2002 and now Slovakia will have to pay $US 220 million to buy it back. But experts don't rule out the possibility that it could later be sold on to Gazprom's oil subsidiary.

Slovakia also wants Russian expertise in nuclear energy production. The head of Russian nuclear corporation, Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, has traveled to Bratislava with an offer to upgrade existing nuclear facilities.

Russia is already involved in modernising two blocks at Slovakia’s Mokovec nuclear plant, and aims to build two more in the country’s central region.

Russia's other ambitious project is to connect Russia with Austria by a single rail artery, which will also pass through Slovak territory.

It’s estimated that the project will cost around 4.3 billion euros and the construction is expected to start in 2010.