Moscow gives Belarus ultimatum on back gas payments

Moscow/Minsk - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday gave Belarus five more days to inform Moscow about its plans to pay up on years' worth of back debts on gas deliveries.

The Moscow daily Kommersant, reporting on the development, said that Russian energy giant Gazprom estimates that Belarus' outstanding payments will reach some 500 million euros (700 million dollars) by the end of this year.

On Tuesday, Gazprom boss Alexei Miller had met with Medvedev and threatened a reduction of gas deliveries to Belarus, while the Kremlin boss himself spoke of "tough measures" to be taken.

In Minsk, the government declined to comment on Moscow's criticism, with a spokesman only saying "we consider further talks are necessary."

Last January, Russia and Belarus had agreed, after a months-long dispute, on a new gas delivery deal. But Moscow now charges that Minsk is not meeting its terms.

A past such dispute between the two countries led to a several-day delivery stop by Russia in early 2007.


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