TOMSK, April 17 (RIA Novosti) – Chinese investors plan to launch the first phase of a major Siberian timber complex later this year, part of a push by Beijing to cement business ties with Moscow amid strained relations between Russia and the EU, a senior manager of the venture said Thursday.

A timber processing park in the Tomsk region of Western Siberia will be part of the first phase of the project, including three mills and a dedicated power plant for industrial needs, said Boris Kaznacheyev, Deputy Director General of Roskitinvest.

Investment in the project has already reached 9 billion rubles ($250 million), Kaznacheyev said. The overall investment in timber logging, processing and related infrastructure is expected to reach 30 billion rubles ($830 million) by 2022.

In 2011, the Russian-Chinese joint venture launched a timber mill and veneer plant in the Asinovsky region, about 100 kilometers from Tomsk. The launch of the plants had been postponed several times amid unstable funding and Beijing’s concerns over violations of building codes.

Leonid Reznikov, the region’s deputy governor who oversees the industrial and fuel-and-energy sectors, said a working group would be set up to speed preparations. “We want the project to be launched in the shortest time possible, that’s why we need to boost joint work,” he said.

China is also interested in the development of alternative energy projects in Russia’s new regions of Crimea and Sevastopol, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Wednesday.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said earlier that cooperation with China was a top priority for Russia. President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China next month and sign a number of bilateral agreements, including on potential Russian gas supplies to China.

Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, European countries announced a three-stage sanctions process against Russia.

The first stage saw the suspension of talks of a number of Russian and EU working groups. In the second stage, the EU announced visa sanctions and asset freezes against targeted Russian officials. The third stage, not yet reached, would be broad economic sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called the language of sanctions in relation to Russia both inappropriate and counterproductive.