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Medvedev Oversees Deals in Slovakia

Fico greeting Medvedev ahead of their meeting on Wednesday in the Slovak government building in Bratislava. Radovan Stoklasa

President Dmitry Medvedev saluted Slovakia's strong economic partnership with Russia on Wednesday on his first visit to Slovakia, where he oversaw the signing of several energy and transportation deals.

Medvedev cited the Russian-Slovak relationship as an example for other East European countries and pointed to the role of various notable Slovaks in Russian history, such as Leo Tolstoy's doctor Dushan Makovetsky.

Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic and Prime Minister Robert Fico met with Medvedev, who emphasized the close ties between the two countries in the energy sector, where Slovakia is a "key and dependable link for transporting Russian gas to Europe."

Tvel, a subsidiary of Atomenergoprom, signed an agreement with generator Slovenske Elektrarne to service and supply nuclear fuel for two power units in the Mochovce nuclear plant currently being built by Russia's Atomstroiexport, among others. The 300 million euro ($400 million) contract will last from 2012 to 2017, according to the terms of the deal.

Russian companies already have several long-term contracts to supply fuel to Slovak nuclear plants. Slovak Electrical Systems is majority-owned by Italy's Enel.

Russia and Slovakia are also developing plans to jointly build a facility in Slovakia that will produce fuel for nuclear plants in Slovakia and Ukraine, Tvel president Dmitry Olenin said Wednesday. A plant based in the European Union would give Russia better access to European markets, he said. The countries had agreed to the joint venture during Fico's November visit to Moscow.

The two sides also agreed to create a research center in Bratislava, where Russia has helped build a cyclotron. The project was initially conceived of in 1996 as a means for Russia to pay back its debt to Slovakia.

As part of the delegation, Russian Railways signed a four-way agreement to begin to extend a wide-track railway from Kosice, Slovakia, to Vienna, via Bratislava. As part of the agreement with Slovakia, Ukraine, and Austria, the sides selected Munich-based Roland Berger Strategy Consultants as the main contractor to work on the preliminary plans for the line and created a joint company to oversee project planning.

For years Russia has been discussing the possibility of integrating its railway network with Europe's, which would cut down on freight

travel time and fees. The project would cost about 4.7 billion euros ($6.3 billion), and the initial plans for the project will be developed by the end of this year, Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin said.

Russian Railways also signed a series of deals with Slovakia's Tatravagonka, including several to establish joint ventures for designing and building cargo train cars and platforms.

Other deals reached included those in the spheres of gas trade, intellectual property rights and combating illegal drug trafficking.

Russia's Tvel company will make the next nuclear fuel delivery to Iran a year after the Bushehr plant is launched. "If the reactor is launched this year, the fuel will be supplied in 2011," Olenin said in Bratislava. The first batch of fuel was delivered in 2007.

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