EU expects gas to flow despite Russia-Belarus spat

BRUSSELS June 21 (Reuters) - The European Union's executive said on Monday it expected Russian natural gas to continue flowing to the EU despite a dispute between Moscow and Belarus over unpaid bills for the fuel.

Russia cut gas supplies to Belarus by 15 percent on Monday, pressing its neighbour to pay mounting debts. Russian gas transited via Belarus amounts to one tenth of Europe's needs, much smaller than the transit link via Ukraine.

"We expect the gas transit flow to the European Union from Russia through Belarus will not be affected. We expect all the contractual obligations to be fulfilled," Marlene Holzner, European Commission spokeswoman on energy affairs told reporters.

Holzner said that if Belarus began to siphon off Russian gas destined for the EU in order to meet its requirements, then Germany, Lithuania and Poland would be affected. Lithuania receives 100 percent of the gas it uses from Russia via the Belarus transit route.

Holzner said the dispute with Russia did not mean that Belarus would necessarily cut supplies to the EU.

Russian and EU experts are due to meet on Monday to discuss the gas supplies after the Russian government wrote to the Commission to explain the situation, she said.

The EU is wary of any Russian gas delivery disruption after payment conflicts between Moscow and Ukraine cut supplies twice over recent years. (Reporting by Marcin Grajewski and Luke Baker; editing by James Jukwey)


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