Russia cuts Belarus gas by 60 percent


MOSCOW - Russia on Wednesday cut Belarus's gas supply by 60 percent, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said in televised remarks, as a gas payment feud between Moscow and Minsk entered a third day.

Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko ordered on Tuesday a shutdown of Russian gas transit deliveries to Europe, after Moscow began reducing gas supplies pumped to Belarus over an unpaid debt of nearly 200 million dollars.

In recent months Russia and Belarus have often been at loggerheads over energy prices and customs duties, but the latest dispute is the fiercest feud yet between the two ex-Soviet neighbors.

Analysts say that in addition to contractual matters the Russia-Belarus gas dispute has been sharpened by Lukashenko turning away from traditional reliance on the Kremlin and pursuing closer ties with the European Union.

Gazprom pledged the latest dispute with Russia's ex-Soviet neighbour would not hit supplies to European clients.

The European Union, whose members Lithuania, Germany and Poland depend on Russian gas piped through Belarus, has called on Minsk and Moscow to respect their contractual obligations.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov declined immediate comment on the possibility of further cuts Wednesday but he told AFP the day before that further reductions were "possible."

The gas giant has said it would incrementally reduce gas supplies up to 85 percent of the normal volume if the debt is not settled in the coming days.

On Monday, it reduced Belarussian energy supplies by an initial 15 percent. That reduction was followed on Tuesday by cuts of up to 30 percent in supply.


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