Russia-Belarus gas dispute won't affect Baltics

Written by Nathan Greenhalgh

VILNIUS - While Russia's decision Monday morning to cut up to 85 percent of natural gas supplies to Belarus may affect other European countries, the Baltic states will not experience supply disruptions.

Lithuania's national gas company Lietuvos Dujos, which Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom controls 37 percent of, announced Monday that neither gas supplies nor prices in Lithuania would be affected by the Russia-Belarus dispute.

Given the European continent's dependence on Russian gas, disputes over payment between Russia and its neighbors has caused problems for countries further down the pipeline. During a pricing disagreement with Ukraine in the winter of 2008-09, gas supplies were completely cut off to Ukraine resulting in cutoffs for much of southeastern Europe for 13 days in January. A similar incident occurred in 2006 in Ukraine and 2007 in Belarus.

At 9 a.m. on Monday, Russia cut 15 percent of its gas flow to Belarus' Yamal-Europe pipeline and threatened to make additional cuts of up to 85 percent over the next few days if demanded cash payments are not received. Belarus offered to pay by barter instead of cash, which Moscow refused.

"Gazprom cannot accept payment of the debt in pies, nor butter, nor cheese nor other means of payment," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.

Gas for Poland and Germany flows through Belarus, but Russia said it could increase supplies through Ukrainian pipelines that would compensate.

The Baltic states are served by three direct pipelines from Russia, one of which goes through Latvia and Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.


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