During today's business meeting, in the town of Kirkenes, Norway, between Russia's Prime-Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Paavo Lipponen, his Finnish colleague, energy problems became the first priority issue. The meeting preceded the coming Barents region member countries' summit. According to the STT news agency, Russia is dissatisfied with the progress of the preparations concerning the Northern Dimension programme, which should be launched in 2004, saying that, 'as it stands now, the plans do not sufficiently take Russia's opinions into account'.
Russia badly needs investments in energy and seaport construction projects. The parties agreed that their experts would meet and talk in Moscow to take care of still existing differences. Mr. Lipponen said that the European Union might be also prepared to take part in projects other than those already discussed. For once, the mandate of the European Investment Bank as concerns the financing of Northern Dimension projects may be extended to include programmes outside just environmental protection.
At the same time, the two Prime-Ministers agreed that there were also positive moments as concerned the Northern Dimension programme. As an example of this, they mentioned the already begun construction of the Northwestern Water Treatment Works. Mr. Kasyanov noted Russia's interest as concerned the construction in Finland of the fifth nuclear power unit. The Minister of Atomic Energy of Russia is expected to visit Finland in February. While there, the minister will have a closer look at the project. The two Prime-Ministers agreed that on the whole Russian-Finnish relations were good.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building