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Russia to Pay Off Macedonia Debt with Skopje Gas Pipeline

February 23, 2005

( Research Service)- State-run media body MIA announced yesterday that the Russian and Macedonian governments have agreed on a plan by which some $15 million of the former’s debt will be paid off with the construction of a natural gas pipeline ring around Skopje.

The project, which will be led by Russia’s Rosneftegazstroyand include the Macedonian company Gama, as well as local experts and workers, is said to be a priority project for the government. MIA quotes an ITAR-TASS interview with Rosneftegazstroy Vice-President Vassili Medvedenko, who said that “…the ring around Skopje is of strategic importance for Macedonian officials, considering the perspectives for further transport of gas via Macedonia to Albania and Greece.”

Last year, Russia and Macedonia announced a new period of economic partnership is beginning between the two countries, on everything from import-export to construction. In this context, MIA quoted Ivica Bocevski, chief of cabinet for newly-appointed Vice-Premier for Economic Affairs Minco Jordanov, as saying that further energy-sector projects between the pipeline partners will be considered following the signing of an inter-governmental agreement on Russian debt payment.

The long-established Rosneftegazstroy is the successor of the former USSR’s Ministry of Oil and Gas Construction. Long active in pipeline projects, the company boasts that over the past 20 years it has laid “…over 12,000 km of pipeline and associated infrastructure in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, Yemen, Angola, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, and Libya.”

In a further sign of energy-sector interest, he added, Dmitry Tarasov, the First Deputy Director of Lukoil, plans to visit Macedonia in early March.

Macedonia’s anticipated energy-sector projects all take place at least in part on the regionally defined Corridor 8, a transport and supply route crossing Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. A railroad connection from Skopje to Bulgaria, as well as the AMBO oil pipeline, are the two other major projects being developed.

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