Moscow: Belarus faces gas shortage if no payment by Monday - Summary

Moscow - Russia is readying itself to drastically reduce the amount of gas shipped to Belarus if gas monopoly Gazprom does not receive a 155-million-euro (192.1-million-dollar) payment by Monday, the Interfax news service reported on Friday.

Citing Alexei Miller, head of Gazprom, Interfax reported that the Russian company is prepared to cut deliveries to Belarus by 85 per cent. A significant portion of gas headed to Western Europe passes through Belarus.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said that his country would "find the money."

The 15 per cent of gas that will otherwise continue to flow will be the bare minimum to maintain sufficient pressure in the pipeline, Miller said.

Miller made his comments on the sidelines of a business seminar in St Petersburg. They reiterate statements made by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.

The Moscow daily Kommersant reported Wednesday that Belarus' outstanding payments will reach some 500 million euros by the end of this year.

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

Lukashenko has suggested that the payment expected Monday is set too high and has instead proposed a payment of 107 million euros.

"We are in negotiations," he said.

He also criticised Moscow for increasing the gas prices it charges to Belarus, even though it recently lowered gas prices for the bankruptcy-threatened Ukraine.

Lukashenko has proven a political irritant to Moscow many times over the years, even though he relies on Russia to remain in power.

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


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