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Russia’s Medvedev set for official Czech visit

Vladimír Putin

  17:01

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seems set for a Prague official visit with the Temelín nuclear contract likely to top business talks

Presidents Medvedev (left) and Klaus during the former's historic visit to Prague in April 2010 foto: ©ReutersČeská pozice

Preparations for a first official visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the Czech Republic are in full swing with his arrival in Prague expected at the start of December, sources from the Czech president’s office and government have told Czech Position.

Medvedev was invited to make an official visit in April 2010 by his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus when the Russian head of state was in Prague for his meeting with US President Barack Obama and the landmark signing of a news nuclear arms reduction deal.

A visit in early December should coincide with an exhibition of treasures from the Kremlin which starts on December 9 at Prague Castle. Presidents of both countries have played a leading role in clearing way obstacles to the exhibition. A visit in early December should coincide with an exhibition of treasures from the Kremlin

The business side of the official visit is likely to be the attempts by the partnership of Russian company Atomstrojexport and Czech engineering company Škoda JS to win a massive tender to build two nuclear reactors at the current Temelín site in the south of the country with options for a possible extra three reactors.  

The Atomstrojexport–Škoda JS partnership is competing with US-based Westinghouse and France’s Areva. The contract for Temelín’s completion was raised with Klaus when he visited Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in November last year. Klaus said after the meeting that the Russians’ offer of 60 percent of work on the reactors for Czech subcontracters should be a factor in the final decision.

Strategic worries

Russian lobbying has to overcome Czech doubts about increasing energy dependence on Russia. Around three-quarters of the Czech natural gas and most of its oil imports come from Russia.

The US, in particular recently-installed ambassador Norman Eisen, is also lobbing hard for the Temelín contract and is also eying a tender to supply supersonic jet fighters to the Czech Army when the current lease deal for Gripen jets expires. Sources within the security community point out that it is unlikely that the US could win both the nuclear contract and seal a deal for the F-16 to be the Czech Republic’s main fighter plane.

Temelín lobbying will pick up pace in little over a month when Atomstrojexport stages an international nuclear conference in Prague featuring top names and players  from Russia’s nuclear industry. Westinghouse bosses are also expected in Prague at around the same time.

December’s official presidential visit might also broach the question of the sale of Czech gas pipeline operator Net4Gas. German power giant RWE, which controls Czech gas market leader RWE Transgas, has hinted the company could be put up for sale with Russian state gas company Gazprom a likely bidder.

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