Russia doesn't rule out legal action against Belarus over gas debts

MOSCOW, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Russia doesn't rule out the possibility of legal action against Belarus over its gas debts, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Saturday.

Russian gas giant Gazprom threatened earlier this week to cut 85 percent of Belarus' gas supply, because it says Belarus currently owes Gazprom about 200 million U.S. dollars.

Belarus Deputy Energy Minister Edward Tovpinets claimed, however, that the gas debt was equal to the transit debt owed by Gazprom, which meant the debt could be offset.

Sechin, who is in St. Petersburg for the International Economic Forum, called for settling Belarus' claims against Gazprom in court.

"We will figure out in court who owes whom," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov told journalists earlier Saturday that Belarus, a transit country for Russian gas exports to Europe, had provided no documents to prove Russia's debts for gas transit via its territory.

Meanwhile, a Gazprom spokesman said the company would continue talks on the gas payment with the Belarussian Energy Ministry.


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