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Russia to help Belarus build nuclear power plant

Russia said Thursday that it will extend Belarus a loan that will help the former Soviet republic build its first nuclear power plant since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said following talks with his Belarussian counterpart Mikhail Myasnikovich that the plant would help Belarus establish energy independence and move away from its reliance on Russian oil.

“We understand that it is a very important project for Belarus. It increases the energy independence of the republic,” Putin said.

“The Russian side is ready (to help Belarus) realise this project. The project is big, nearly six billion dollars, and we are ready solve the issue of a loan,” said Putin.

The Belarussian prime minister said the basic terms of the construction project “will be agreed in the first quarter” of this year.

It was not immediately clear how much money Russia was lending its traditional ally for the project.

The nuclear power plant’s construction was first envisioned in the early 1980s but then put on hold by the Soviet Union following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine.

Official Belarussian data estimates that about 70 percent of the fallout from the reactor explosion landed in Belarus.

The project was resurrected in recent years following a series of energy disputes between Russia and Belarus that involved both oil and natural gas, with some of the shipment interruptions also affecting European countries.

Belarus imports almost all of its oil from Russia through the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline.

Addressing the energy dispute, Putin said that Belarus would continue to receive subsidised oil supplies that should help the struggling nation keep its economy on track.

“The Belarussian economy will receive subsidies from cheap Russian oil of an order of no less than 4.124 billion dollars,” said Putin.