Minsk sends team to Moscow for crisis gas talks

By Andrei Makhovsky

MINSK, June 20 (Reuters) - Belarus said it was sending a delegation to Moscow on Sunday for eleventh-hour emergency talks with Russian gas giant Gazprom after Gazprom threatened to cut supplies over an unresolved price row. Russia has said it will cut 85 percent of gas supplies from Monday to Belarus if its ex-Soviet neighbour fails to pay $192 million in debts to Gazprom --- money Belarus denies it owes.

The prospect of cuts to Belarus has raised the spectre of a repeat of supply cuts to Western Europe, which occurred in 2009 when Moscow cut supplies to Ukraine.

However, Gazprom says it does not believe there will be any significant disruption in supply to Western Europe because only about a fifth of its European exports transit through Belarus and demand in June is seasonally low.

Cuts could nonetheless further hurt Russia's reputation as a reliable exporter at a time when it faces falling demand from crisis-hit Europe and competition from U.S.-produced shale gas.

"The delegation leaves tonight for talks on Monday ... the issue of debt will be discussed," Belarussian Deputy Energy Minister Eduard Tovpenets told Reuters.


Partners: Social Network