Belarus claims its gas supplies are unaffected by Gazprom's cuts

No deal has been struck in the gas row between Gazprom and the Belarusian government - but Minsk insists it is still receiving its full deliveries of gas from Russia.

The Russian energy giant had planned to start cutting 15 per cent from its agreed supply from 10 am on Monday morning, but by 10:40 transit staff reported no change in flows into Belarus.

Gazprom boss Alexei Miller had warned that cuts would start at 15 per cent and increase day-by-day to a maximum of 85 per cent unless the Belarussian government repaid a debt of around $200 million, RIA Novosti reported.

"Belarus acknowledges the gas debt, but has offered to pay with machinery, equipment and various other goods," Miller said, adding that talks had yielded no result.

That represents progress from last week, when President Alexander Lukashenko said that as far as he was concerned there was no debt after being told he had a five-day deadline to come up with the cash.

However, late on Friday first deputy energy minister Eduard Tovpinets announced that Belarus owed $200 million in transit fees - equivalent to the sum Russia claims it is owed for gas supplies.

As the dispute raged, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev called for "tough action" over the outstanding sum, saying: "It is necessary to protect the interests of Russian consumers and ultimately the Russian state."

The dispute has the air of an argument over a cab fare, with both sides insisting they have already agreed different rates. From the start of 2010 Russia believed it had a deal at $169 per 1,000 cubic metres for the first quarter and $185 for the second.

However officials in Minsk dispute those figures and have paid a flat fee of $150 since Jan. 1.

Talks between the two sides are continuing in Moscow


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