By Emil Danielyan
Russia’s main natural gas exporter warned on Tuesday that it will drastically cut gas supplies to Armenia unless its government settles its outstanding debts by the end of this week.
The ITERA corporation, which is the export arm of the Russian Gazprom giant, told the Itar-Tass news agency that it is considering slashing by two thirds the current delivery level of 5.2 million cubic meters a day.
ITERA officials accused the Armenian government of failing to make good on its pledge to repay a $6 million debt for last year’s gas deliveries and incurring $3.85 million in additional debts this month. They said the repayment agreement was reached on January 11.
Armenia’s Energy Minister Armen Movsisian was in Moscow at the time, meeting senior Gazprom and ITERA executives. But no agreements were officially announced afterwards.
The chronic problem of Yerevan’s gas debts was high on the agenda of President Robert Kocharian’s working trip to Moscow in mid-December. Kocharian met with Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller, pledging to clear all debts and make sure that all payments for further supplies are carried out on time.
He also secured the Russians’ promise not to raise the price of gas supplied to Armenia this year. ITERA had planned to charge $70 per thousand cubic meters. Armenia currently pays $53 for the same amount of the vital fuel which generates nearly one third of its electricity.