Armenia is currently paying for Russian natural gas 35 percent more than is claimed by its government, according to the latest import data released by the Armenian customs service.
The information posted on the service’s website on Thursday says the country imported 304.6 million cubic meters of Russian gas worth $74.4 million in the third quarter of this year. This translates into a gas price of roughly $244 per thousand cubic meters, compared with $180 per thousand cubic meters declared by the Armenian government.
Similar customs data for the first half of this year suggested that Armenia paid Russia’s Gazprom gas monopoly $220 million per thousand cubic meters of gas imported through neighboring Georgia. This fuelled media speculation about a secret rise in the gas price.
Armen Alaverdian, the first deputy chief of the State Revenue Committee (SRC) told journalists on Thursday that he is “not prepared” to answer their questions regarding the customs data contradicting the government claims. But Alaverdian also said that the customs service, subordinate to the SRC, determines the market value of imported commodities and goods on the basis of declarations filed by importers.
Some media outlets and opposition politicians claim that the government has secretly sold its 20 percent stake in the ArmRosGazprom (ARG) national gas distribution company to Gazprom to make sure that Armenian consumers are not affected by the price hike until next year’s presidential election. Gazprom owns the remaining 80 percent of ARG.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian was pressed on the matter by opposition lawmakers in the parliament on Wednesday. Movsisian insisted that the gas price stands at $180 and that Russian-Armenian talks on a new tariff are continuing.
ARG spokeswoman Shushan Sardarian had “nothing to add” to the minister’s statements when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). For its part, Gazprom’s press office in Moscow again refused to comment on the cost of the Russian gas supplied to Armenia, saying it is a commercial secret.
Earlier this year, Gazprom reportedly announced plans to drastically raise the tariff starting from 2013. President Serzh Sarkisian discussed the issue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when they met in Moscow on August 8. Sarkisian said after the meeting that they reached a “mutual understanding.” But he did not elaborate.