Russia, Belarus crank up 'gas' war

MINSK, Belarus, June 23 (UPI) -- Belarus says it has settled it debts with Gazprom and demanded the Russian gas company do the same with gas transit fees owed Belarus, observers say.

The arguments over mutual debts, similar to a confrontation between Russia and Ukraine last year, sparked fears that European consumers could suffer gas shortages in Belarus halts transit of Russian gas through its territory, RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

Belarus has threatened to halt movement of gas to Europe, but Moscow assured European customers it could maintain supplies through Ukraine, The Moscow Times reported.

Gazprom acknowledges the $260 million it owes Belarus in transit fees, but says it had seen no sign yet of Belarus' claimed $187 million payment of its debt for Gazprom supplies consumed in Belarus.

"We will confirm the debt payment only after we have received the money," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said. "There is no money in the account."


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