Russia’s Gazprom energy giant has expressed readiness to lower the price of its natural gas supplied to Armenia in return for gaining full ownership of the country’s gas distribution network.
The two sides began negotiating over the possibility of the Armenian government ceding its remaining 20 percent share in the ARG network to Gazprom after the gas price officially rose from $190 to $270 per thousand cubic meters this spring. The government pledged to subsidize the new price by 30 percent with financial support which it hopes to obtain from Moscow.
Armen Movsisian discussed the matter with Alexey Miller, the Gazprom chairman, in Moscow on June 17. Movsisian denied afterwards any connection between the gas tariff and his government’s apparent readiness to raise the Russian share in ARG from 80 to 100 percent. He said proceeds from the sale of its 20 percent stake in the gas distributor would not be enough to finance the subsidy.
However, Miller’s spokesman Sergey Kuprianov affirmed such a link in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Thursday. “The price for Armenia has indeed gone up, and we are now holding negotiations over which scheme could lower that price,” he said. “There is an understanding that we can agree on lower prices in Armenia because our joint venture [ARG] operates there. We will probably be able to increase our stake and that will create an additional possibility of reducing the price.”
The Armenian Energy Ministry refused to comment on Kuprianov’s statement on Friday, citing Movsisian’s absence from the country. It was not clear whether the minister again flew to Moscow for more talks.
Movsisian told journalists earlier this month that the government is ready in principle to make Gazprom the sole owner of ARG. This prompted strong criticism from Armenian opposition groups. They say that Armenia will now have even less of a say in the management of the domestic gas network.
Kuprianov’s remarks were construed by Vahagn Khachatrian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress, as further proof that Yerevan and Moscow have already reached a “tentative agreement” on the sale of the minority stake in ARG. “The Armenian authorities are hiding everything from their citizens,” he said.