(RTTNews) - Russia has further reduced supplies of natural gas to Belarus as the latter has taken no steps toward paying off its debt.
Alexei Miller, CEO of the state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom, said in a statement that it was supplying 30 per cent less gas than the routine daily volume.
As directed by President Dmitry Medvedev, Gazprom introduced on Monday a regime of limiting supplies of Russian gas to Belarus by 15 per cent.
Miller had warned that the gas cuts would be raised to 85 per cent in the coming days if a solution to the conflict was not found. State-owned Ria Novosti news agency quoted him as saying that supplies to Belarus would be reduced "day-by-day, proportionally to the debt's volume."
Gazprom says Belarus owes about $192 million after failing to pay increased prices, while Minsk challenged the Russian claim and refused to pay.
Later, Belarus' first Deputy Premier Vladimir Semashko said his country would settle the debts within two weeks, indicating that Belarus would borrow the money required for the same.
He said Russia owed Belarus $217 million in transit fees for using its territory for delivering gas to Europe, and added: "If they pay us 217 million dollars for transit, we're prepared to pay 187 million dollars of our debt for gas."
But Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kurpiyanov said his company would "certainly not wait" until the pay-by date that Minsk promised.
Like Ukraine, Belarus remains heavily dependent on Russia to meet its energy needs, and a considerable proportion of Russian oil and gas exports to Europe pass through that country.
A European Commission spokeswoman expressed concern that the dispute between Russia and Belarus could affect gas supplies to Europe. But Gazprom says it has the capacity to reroute the European gas supplies away from Belarus.
by RTT Staff Writer