Belarusian president orders shutdown of gas transit to Europe

MOSCOW, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Minsk on Tuesday that he had ordered to close gas transit to Europe via Belarus, Russian and Belarusian media reported.

"I have ordered the government to suspend the traffic of Russian gas through Belarus until Gazprom pays the debt for the transit," said Lukashenko, who believed "Gazprom owes us, not we owes Gazprom."

"Until we are paid for the last six months, gas transit will not continue," said Lukashenko.

The Belarusian leader meanwhile offered to offset the country's gas debt with Russian state gas monopoly.

"Gazprom owes us 260 million U.S. dollars, which includes transit in May," he said. "We owe them 190 million dollars, and they (Gazprom) owe us 260 million dollars. It is absurd that we are not paying off this debt. Unfortunately, gas row is becoming a gas war between Gazprom and Belarus."

Russia for its part insisted instant payment of the debt due, which Lukashenko believed has posed "open pressure" in this situation.

The Belarusian leader meanwhile said his country has found money and would pay for Russian gas "soon," but the money was borrowed from his friends since the country has no free money to pay off the debt.


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