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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Politics Aside as Russia Signs Polish Pipeline Deal

WARSAW -- Poland and Russia, leaving aside their continued strong political differences, have signed an agreement on building the Polish section of a major pipeline to bring gas from Siberia to Western Europe.

The deal was the centerpiece of a two-day visit by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in which the two countries remained divided over Poland's desire to quickly enter NATO, but clinched seven economic deals.

"This [pipeline] agreement has enormous significance for Poland, for Russia and for Western Europe," Chernomyrdin said Saturday.

The whole pipeline, to be completed by 2010, is expected to cost an estimated $10 billion and carry 67 billion cubic meters of gas a year from the Yamal peninsula in Siberia across Poland to Germany.

The Polish section, construction of which is to start in April, is to cost some $2.5 billion.

Under the deal, the Polish government will extend credit guarantees for 15 percent of this sum to companies chosen for the construction. The rest will be guaranteed by Russia.

The agreement to build the pipe was initially concluded in 1993, but the protocol, signed by Polish Industry Minister Marek Pol and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov, laid out essential details.

Both sides were so keen to sign the deal that Chernomyrdin came to Poland despite the political turmoil, where Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak has decided to stand down and his likely successor Jozef Oleksy is trying to form a government.

Poland hopes the pipeline will yield stable long-term gas supplies. But among a people deeply suspicious of Russia after decades of Soviet domination, some voices argued the deal would make Poland vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.

"I think this agreement should simply not be signed at this moment," right-wing former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski said.