German Minister Doesn't Fear Gas Shortage From Russian Shut-off

BERLIN (Dow Jones)--Russia's move to sharply reduce natural gas flows to Belarus shouldn't harm Germany's supply, Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle said Tuesday.

"I don't at all fear an acute supply shortage for Germany," Bruederle said in a statement, adding that demand for natural gas is particularly low in summer, and that Germany's domestic reserves were well-stocked.

Russia's state-run gas giant OAO Gazprom (GAZP.RS) escalated the dispute Tuesday, reducing supplies to Belarus by 30%. The Belarussian government responded by ordering a halt to transit of Russian natural gas to Europe.

Bruederle said German officials were monitoring the dispute closely.

"Bilateral problems between Russia and Belarus can't result in existing contractual obligations with European Union members being unfulfilled," Bruederle said.

The EU depends on Russia for around 25% of its gas needs, though the bulk of that transits through pipelines outside Belarus.

Gazprom has threatened to reduce Belarus' supply by 85% in the days ahead of it doesn't settle an $192 million bill.

-By Patrick McGroarty,


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