Gas flow to Belarus may be cut by 85 percent: Gazprom

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's gas giant Gazprom may cut gas supplies to Belarus by 85 percent starting next week unless debt is paid, the company's chief executive Alexei Miller said Thursday.

"Considering the amount of gas supplied in June and the amount of debt which is 192 million dollars, it is determined that the cut will make 85 percent of the planned volume of gas supplies to Belarus," Miller said as quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.

"The remaining 15 percent will allow Belarus to keep its gas transport grid functioning until the accumulated debt is fully paid," Miller said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday warned that Gazprom would reduce gas supplies to neighbouring Belarus if Minsk did not pay off debt by the end of the week.

Gazprom said last month that the debt might grow to 500 million to 600 million dollars by year's end.

The European Union closely watches gas disputes between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbours after a row between Moscow and Kiev led to supplies of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine being cut off for two weeks early last year.

Russia's ultimatum comes after Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko flew to Moscow on Friday for talks with Medvedev.

In a surprise move last month, Lukashenko offered Russia to buy control of Belarus' gas pipeline operator and an oil refinery in exchange for lower energy prices but Russia turned down the proposal.

Belarus and Russia are building a single customs bloc but relations have been under strain in recent years as the two former Soviet republics frequently wrangle over energy prices and trade issues.


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