Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian said on Wednesday that Russia’s Gazprom monopoly has responded to an Armenian government proposal to start talks on reducing the price of Russian natural gas supplied to Armenia.
Grigorian effectively requested a price cut in a letter to Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller sent on behalf of his government late last month.
He argued that international oil prices, which greatly determine the cost of natural gas, have fallen sharply due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also said that economic disruptions caused by the virus will significantly reduce energy consumption levels in Armenia unless they are offset by cheaper gas.
“Russia’s Gazprom has replied that it is keeping the issue at the center of its attention,” Grigorian told Armenian lawmakers. “At the same time the letter [from Gazprom] says that contacts on the issue will be at the government level.”
Grigorian did not say whether Miller replied to him before or after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on April 6.
According to Pashinian’s press office, the gas issue was on the agenda of the phone call. The office did not give any details.
Yerevan hopes that a price cut will at least offset a roughly 11 percent rise in internal gas prices for Armenian households and businesses, which was requested by Armenia’s Gazprom-owned national gas distribution network on April 1.
The retail prices have remained unchanged since Gazprom raised its wholesale tariff for Armenia from $150 to $165 per thousand cubic meters in January 2019. This has translated into additional losses for the Gazprom Armenia network.
Garegin Baghramian, the head of Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission, said on Wednesday that it is now looking into the network’s application. Under Armenian law, the regulatory body, which sets utility prices in the country, has to decide by June 19 whether to approve or reject it.