Russians to be given Serbian steel mill "for free"

It is becoming increasingly likely that Russia's Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) will become the owner of Železara Smederevo steel mill, Belgrade-based daily Danas writes.

Source: Danas

The article adds that Russia "seems to have made this decision for political, rather than economic reasons" - as the country finds it "very important" to be present in this region.

A source described as "well informed", who has not been named, was further quoted by the daily:

"I think that everything has already been agreed on, except some minor details, so the calling of a tender is nothing more than buying some time in order to solve those things. In any case the Russians will get Železara for free, or will acquire it for a symbolic price, not unlike that when U.S. Steel sold the factory to the state for one U.S. dollar."

According to the source, one of the problems still left to be resolved is related to the Americans "not shutting down one of the blast furnaces properly before leaving Smederevo":

"Restarting blast furnaces once they had been shut down is a fairy expensive procedure, and it's especially costly when a furnace had been shut down inadequately. If it's true that such a blunder had been made, the Russians will have to set aside more money to solve the problem. It is highly likely that this is what's still being negotiated. In line with that, the government decided to call the tender, which already fell through twice, instead of selling Železara to UVZ in a direct deal."

According to him, the fact that the Russians will be "given the steel mill for nothing" was not an issue, since this was the only way for the factory to survive and for its workers to keep their jobs.

"The fact is that nobody has shown an interest in buying Železara during the economic crisis that has hit the steel industry particularly hard. Therefore the interest shown by Uralvagonzavod is something that should be utilized. In a way - even if the Serbian government were to give the factory to the Russians for free - it will be an excellent business move. Considering that Uralvagonzavod is a large defense industry complex that manufactures tanks and truck, the steel made in Železara has the quality to be used for that kind of products, and the factory, owned by the Russians, will certainly never be left with nothing to do," the newspaper's sourced stated, and added:

"At the same time, considering the speculation that the arrangement is the result of a political deal between Moscow and Belgrade, it is believed, with good foundation, that the deal will allow for some other companies in Serbia to win new jobs. That will certainly be a big boost for our country's faltering economy."

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