By Shakeh Avoyan and Artur Terian in Moscow
The Armenian energy ministry declined Wednesday to comment on the Russian energy exporter ITERA’s plans to drastically cut supplies of natural gas to Armenia over its mounting debts.
A ministry spokeswoman would not specify what steps the Armenian government is taking to keep ITERA from reducing the volume of gas deliveries from the current 5.2 million to 1.8 million cubic meters a day from February 1. Officials from the ArmRosGazprom, Armenia’s main gas distributor, also declined a comment.
Meanwhile, an ITERA spokesman said the exporting division of Russia’s Gazprom monopoly will go ahead with the drastic measure. The official, Nikolay Semenenko, reiterated ITERA claims that the Armenian side failed to honor an agreement obligating it to repay its $6 million debt for last year’s gas deliveries and incurred $3.85 million in additional debts this month. The Russians say the agreement was reached on January 11.
“Our decision was orally announced during our negotiations with the head of ArmRosGazprom, Karen Karapetian, a few days ago,” Semenenko told RFE/RL. “We have also sent a telegram to the Armenian leadership.”
“There has been no reaction from them as yet,” he said.
The energy ministry in Yerevan would not confirm or deny receipt of the written notification. The head of the ministry’s press service, Lusine Harutiunian, said only that the management of ArmRosGazprom is currently in talks with ITERA executives.
ArmRosGazprom, which itself is 55 percent owned by Gazprom and ITERA, has already toughened its enforcement of gas bills, cutting off supplies to its worst debtors.