Belarus cuts off Russian gas to Europe

Amid a debt row with Russian gas giant Gazprom, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the shutdown of Russian gas transit to Europe.

President Lukashenko said on Tuesday that the flow of Russian gas to Europe via Belarus will be stopped as Gazprom owed transit fees of USD 260 million to Minsk.

"I have now ordered the government to shut down transit through Belarus until Gazprom pays for transit," Lukashenko said during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, AFP reported.

The decision comes after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered its state-owned gas producer to cut deliveries to Belarus by 30 percent -- up from an initial cut of 15 percent -- over Minsk's failure to pay a 192-million-dollar debt.

After Belarus recognized its debt, it offered to pay with machinery, equipment and a series of other products. However, the Russian side said the debt should be paid in currency.

Disputes between Russia neighbors over gas prices and transit terms have always been a threat to European countries, which rely on Russian gas.

Earlier in January 2009, Gazprom halted gas supplies to Europe for nearly two weeks over unsettled disputes with Ukraine over prices and transit terms.


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