Russia threatens to cut Belarus gas supplies

MOSCOW, June 18 (Reuters) - Russia says it will cut 85 percent of gas supplies to Belarus beginning on Monday if its ex-Soviet neighbour fails to pay $192 million in debt to Gazprom for deliveries this year.

"From Monday morning at 10 am (0600 GMT) we are prepared to cut supplies by 85 percent," a Gazprom spokesman said at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum.

Belarus, whose relations with Russia have soured in recent years over trade issues, including gas and oil supply prices, has not made clear whether it intends to pay before Monday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave Belarus a five-day ultimatum on Tuesday in a televised meeting with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller

During the meeting Medvedev shrugged off Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko's request for a reprieve, saying hard economic times could not be used as an excuse.

Belarus is to pay $187 per 1,000 cubic metres on average this year, compared to $148 in 2009.

Gazprom claims Belarus has been paying $150 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas instead of the $169.20 that Gazprom charged in the first quarter and $184.80 in the second, and that total debt has amounted to $192 million for the year.

Belarus pays the lowest gas price among Gazprom's customers, but it has repeatedly said that it should pay less for both gas and oil if it is to join a Russia-dominated customs union with Kazakhstan. By comparison, Ukraine, another former Soviet satellite, pays Gazprom around $234 per 1,000 cubic metres.


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