Russia resumes gas supplies to Belarus

By Courtney Weaver in Moscow

Russia resumed gas flows to Belarus on Thursday after Gazprom, Russia's gas monopoly, said it had received payment for four months of gas deliveries, ending a three-day stand-off that had seen supplies cut by 60 per cent.

Gazprom said it had accepted $187m from Belarus for the gas deliveries rather than the $192m it was demanding and was now waiting to hear whether Belarus would accept its offer to pay it $233m in owed transit fees with the promise to increase fees going forward.

Belarus has said it is owed $260m in transit fees.

Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister, on Thursday expressed regret over the conflict, saying that Moscow had always had "special relations" with Belarus. He called on Gazprom and the former Soviet republic to "clarify all issues which still remained contentious" in a "normal, friendly atmosphere".

The European Union reported on Thursday that it had seen flows to Europe return to normal after disruptions in Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad region on Wednesday when Belarus cut-off transit.

Russia started cutting gas deliveries on Monday and by Wednesday were only supplying 40 per cent of the normal agreed amount.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Gazprom, said the Belarusian side was considering the company's offer to raise transit fees but did not say by how much the fees would be raised.

He said Gazprom had been paying $1.45 for 1,000 cubic metres of gas crossing 100 kilometres, as stipulated in a 2006 contract, while Belarus had started charging $1.74 in 2009 and $1.88 this year.

Mr Putin stressed his hope that Russia and Belarus would avoid any similar conflicts in the future. But he also took the opportunity to remind Russia's neighbour that while Ukraine had been able to secure better prices for gas deliveries by staging a similar dispute in January 2009, Ukraine still paid more for its gas than Belarus did.

While Belarus typically acts as Russia's closest political ally, it has made no secret that it expects financial help from Moscow in return, specifically in the form of oil and gas subsidies.

"No one has lower prices for Russian natural gas [than Belarus does]," Mr Putin said.

The prime minister added that Russia was also not levying export duties on gas sent to Belarus, a loss of Rb1.2bn ($39m) a year for the Russian budget.


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