Belarus boss orders cutoff of Russia gas to West

Moscow/Minsk - Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko directed Tuesday that the flow of Russian gas to the West via Belarus be stopped, saying that Russian gas monopoly Gazprom owed 260 dollars for transit fees for the first half of 2010, ITAR-Tass reported.

The move by Lukashenko came after Gazprom curtailed gas deliveries to Belarus by 30 per cent of the usual daily flow.

Gazprom had already cut Belarus' gas supply by 15 per cent on Monday and had threatened to cut it by as much as 85 per cent if Minsk did not make good on a debt of 192 million dollars.

"I ordered the government to stop the transit of Russian gas through Belorussian territory until Gazprom pays its debt for transit," Lukashenko said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Minsk, Belarus' capital.

In Moscow, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriynov said the company had received a letter from Belorussian Deputy Premier Vladimir Semashko threatening to siphon off gas from the pipeline system if Russia further reduced the supply of gas to Belarus.

"It's hardly possible to constructively solve the problem by taking such a tone and making such threats," Kupriyanov said at a news conference.

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller justified the further cutback Tuesday by saying that Belarus had taken no steps towards paying off its 192 million dollars in debts.

Kupriyanov said the letter from Semashko "contained no substantive proposals."

Gazprom has rejected an offer by Minsk to settle the gas bill in two weeks.


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