Armenia will repay within one year a newly disclosed debt to Russia’s Gazprom gas monopoly that has been incurred by a state-owned thermal power plant in Yerevan, Energy Minister Levon Yolian said on Wednesday.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Yolian said that the plant currently owes Armenia’s Gazprom-controlled gas distribution network $33.8 million for Russian natural gas supplied in the last few years.
He revealed that the Armenian government has borrowed about $21 million from the World Bank in order to clear the debt by August 2017. The loan is repayable in 40 years, the minister said.
The hitherto unknown debt was disclosed by the Armenian press over the weekend. A spokeswoman for the Gazprom-Armenia operator said on Tuesday that it stood at as much as $52.3 million in July and that the gas-powered plant has since repaid a “considerable part” of it.
Yolian refused to comment on the precise causes of the debt, saying that it was incurred before he was appointed energy minister in March. Nor would he say whether it can be attributed to corruption or mismanagement.
“I am only the minister of energy and natural resources of Armenia,” he said. “You could present such questions to other, relevant bodies.”
The plant located in the southern outskirts of Yerevan is the most modern and cost-effective facility of its kind in Armenia. It was reconstructed in 2007-2010 with a $247 million loan provided by the Japanese government.
The plant is also the main recipient of natural gas imported from neighboring Iran. Much of the electricity generated by Iranian gas is supplied to the Islamic Republic.
The Armenian government triggered a scandal in late 2013 when it disclosed a $300 million debt to Gazprom resulting from its secret subsidizing of gas prices in the country. The government repaid that debt by selling its remaining 20 percent stake in Gazprom-Armenia to the Russian energy giant.
Yolian made clear on Wednesday that the government will now pay back the Russians only with cash, rather than stakes in the power plant or any other energy facility.