Interview with Vladimir Likhachyov

Deputy Director of the Energy Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Likhachyov, joined Russia Today to comment on Russian energy giant Gazprom's threat to partly cut gas supplies to Belarus.

Russia Today: Can we expect the situation to be resolved soon?

Vladimir Likhachyov: First of all, I'd like to say that it's necessary to consider this situation from three points of view. Firstly, these are inter-corporation relations, secondly, inter-government, inter-state, international relations, and thirdly, these are relations between the gas supplier and gas consumer in general. I think that Gazprom would like to regard this situation from the corporate point of view. In this case, the thing is just the undisciplined behaviour of the Belarusian side. Gazprom will insist on getting this money back, but at the same time we remember that on December 31, 2006 the problem was resolved just two minutes till the end of the negotiations, so I hope the situation will be resolved very soon.

RT: What's behind Belarus not paying its bills on time and can it indeed pay on its own? There have been some suggestions that it might have to borrow money from Venezuela? How is Belarus expected to survive?

V.L.: The situation formally looks like a lack of discipline but if we look at the development of tensions in Russian-Belarusian relations we can see that Russia is a part of a Unified State with Belarus. Belarus is a member of the EuroAsian Economic Community, etc. Minsk would like to consider itself to be in a privileged position concerning Russian gas supply for example. That is why I think that Belarus has the resources to pay but would like to treat themselves in a preferential manner rather than a regular consumer.

RT: You say that Belarus is able to pay but is seeking preferential treatment.

V.L.: I am sure that Belarus has all the possibilities to pay. They signed protocol, the agreement last year. It is quite easy to consider the preferences for Belarus during four years, some special regime for payment. However, they signed the protocol and thus have to pay.