Belarus says Russia's cuts in gas supplies to affect transit to Europe

Belarus will be unable to ensure full Russian natural gas transit to Europe, if Russia cuts gas supplies to the ex-Soviet republic by 85% over a debt row, a source in the Belarusian Energy Ministry said on Sunday.

Belarus refuses to pay the Russian gas price, set at $169 per 1,000 cubic meters for the first quarter of the year and $185 for the second quarter, and has been paying $150 since Jan. 1 instead.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has warned Belarus' pipeline firm Beltransgaz that it may cut gas supplies from June 21 over the country's debts, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Wednesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier Russia was giving Belarus five days to pay off its $200 million gas debt, or tough measures would be taken.

Belarus has refused to acknowledge the debt. Instead, Belarusian First Deputy Energy Minister Eduard Tovpinets on Friday evening announced that Gazprom owed some $200 million to Belarus for gas transit fees to Europe, the same amount that Gazprom said Belarus owed for gas deliveries.

The CEO of Russia's gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said on Saturday the company is looking into the perspectives of bypassing Belarus in gas deliveries to Europe, adding that it is technically possible.

"In regard to that question, we need to look into this calmly, technical possibilities exist," Miller said.

Meanwhile, a high-placed official of the Belarusian Energy Ministry told RIA Novosti on Sunday that Russia had the right to cut gas supplies only by 15% under the existing contract and not by 85% as was announced by Russia's Gazprom.

"Under the contract, a failure to pay for gas entails a cut in supplies proportionate to the unpaid debt," the official said, adding that $200 million represented about 15% of the amount of natural gas supplied to Belarus by Russia since the start of the year.

"The other part has been paid for," the official said.

Energy prices have been an irritant in relations between the ex-Soviet republics, which have pledged to establish a "union state."

MINSK, June 20 (RIA Novosti)


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