Belgrade, March 25, 2002 - Serbia's state oil company NIS signed a deal with Russian gas producer Gazprom last week for imports of Russian gas worth $81 million that will secure 765 million cubic meters of natural gas for Serbia throughout this year, Belgrade-based Politika daily reported.
Dimitrije Vukcevic, general manager of NIS, said the deal was made possible after Serbia repaid its 2001 debts to Gazprom. Serbia, however, wants to step up its ties with the Russian Gazprom "beyond simple purchases of natural gas," Vukcevic said, citing several ambitious energy projects in which Serbia is trying to interest the Russians.
Serbia has relied heavily on the Russian gas monopoly in the past. Relations with the Russian company go back in 1999, when the former Serbian regime signed a pact with Gazprom for supplies of 7.3 million cubic meters of gas a day to Yugoslavia after the country's power grid and oil refineries were seriously damaged by NATO bombings. In 2000, Gazprom cut off supplies due to debt disputes.
They resumed after a meeting in Moscow last year between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Russian President Vladimir Putin that settled payments for old gas bills.