Belarus suggests Gazprom its own version of paying gas debt

MINSK, June 22 (Itar-Tass) - Belarus suggests Gazprom to pay its debt for gas transit and expressed readiness to pay for received gas by July 5, but warns that further cuts in Russian gas supplies may result in technical decrease in gas transit to Europe.

The Belarussian government spelled out its version of settling the gas problem in a letter, sent to the Russian side on Monday in late afternoon.

Gazprom is suggested to pay the debt for gas transit to Beltransgaz, totalling 217 million US dollars. In turn, Beltransgaz will fully pay for gas, supplied to Belarus in May, before June 23. Besides, it will fully pay the debt of 187 million dollars by July 5, that accrued between January and April 2010.

At the same time, the Belarussian government requested the Russian side "to refrain from further cuts of gas supplies to Belarus till meeting fully mutual obligations".

Otherwise the Belarussian side "will be forced to syphon off gas from the transit gas transportation system to meet fully the needs of the Belarussian national economy and population", the government letter notes.

Belarussian vice-premier Vladimir Semashko told reporters several hours earlier about this possible version of pulling out of "the gas crisis".

"We don't conceal that we experience difficulties with hard currency. It will be necessary for Belarus to borrow funds to make regular payments in time. We hope, may be not today, I believe to find a chance within two weeks a possibility to borrow and to make settlements," the vice-premier said.

He assured that Belarus intends to continue the dialogue with Russia on the problem of payments for gas supplies. "We shall not withdraw from the negotiating process on gas deliveries and will persuade our colleagues to look for a compromise," Semashko said. According to the vice-premier, the negotiating process with the Russian side is now going "in the right direction".

Semashko noted that intense talks were conducted in St. Petersburg on Saturday where the Belarussian side was represented by Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets, while on Monday morning, they were continued in Moscow. He noted that Belarus could ride out 15-percent gas supply cuts and think how to compensate.

Semashko added that Belarus would continue insisting on a regime of mutually advantageous gas prices. In the vice-premier's words, it is improbable to reach an equally advantageous price with Russia by 2011; it is likely to take place by 2015.

Semashko stated that if a gas price is raised, Belarussian economic entities will find themselves in a disadvantageous position as compared to Russian ones, which is at variance with earlier signed agreements.

At the same time, Belarus warned Europe of possible negative aftermaths of Russian gas cuts. A letter, sent by the Belarussian Energy Ministry on Monday to director for general affairs in the European Commission Directorate-General for Energy and Transport Anne Houtman, stresses that further cuts of gas by the Russian side "may result in technical reduction of gas transit to Europe".

The Energy Ministry noted that Belarus "takes all measures to prevent a decrease in transit gas supplies to Europe".

The Energy Ministry informed at the same time that on June 21, the Russian side unilaterally cut gas supplies by 15 percent for Belarussian domestic needs. In this connection, the republic "imposes cuts on gas consumption for several industrial enterprises". Under these circumstances, the ministry explains, "technological emergency situations are possible. Further cuts in gas supplies to Belarus by more than 15 percent may cause technical cuts of transit".

The Belarussian side claimed that Gazprom's position is not constructive. The ministry notes "Gazprom's demands on paying debts are not substantiated enough from the viewpoint of the operating contract".


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