EU expects not to be affected by Russia-Belarus gas row

Brussels - The European Commission said Monday it expected little fallout from a gas payments dispute pitting Russia against Belarus, in which Russia moved to block gas shipments to Belarus.

However, since some Russian gas for Western Europe does flow through Belarus, a spokeswoman admitted officials were still 'not sure' whether the bloc would be affected.

Russian state energy company Gazprom has announced a cut in deliveries to Belarus in a bid to solicit payment for gas already delivered.

But EU energy spokeswoman Marlene Holzner told reporters in Brussels that 'only a small amount of the gas delivered through Europe comes through (the) Belarus system.'

'We expect that the gas transit flows to the European Union from Russia, from Belarus, will not be affected by the dispute,' she said.

She stressed that Yamal - one of the major pipelines supplying Europe which passes through Belarussian territory - 'is controlled 100 per cent by Russians and ... is not affected.'

However, she also indicated that one EU member state, Lithuania, would be significantly hit if Belarus were to make up for the cut in its supplies by passing on less gas in Europe.

The country is '100-per-cent' dependent on Russian gas transiting Belarus. But, in case of a shutdown, neighbouring Latvia would be able to help with alternative supplies, the official said.

Poland and Germany would also be affected, but 'only in an indirect way,' as they use the gas from Belarus to top up their gas storage facilities, Holzner said.

The commission was warned about the dispute on Monday morning, around the same time as the cut in supplies was officially announced by Gazprom, despite Russia and the European Union having agreed on a so-called 'early warning system.'

As part of the process, EU energy experts were expected to meet later Monday with counterparts from the Russian embassy in Brussels, the spokeswoman said.


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