Russia-Belarus 'gas war' ends

By Andrew Osborn,

Russia's "gas war" with Belarus appeared to have ended in a whimper after four days of brinkmanship and supply cuts that further damaged Russia's reputation as a reliable energy supplier.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said that Belarus had paid off most of the $200 million debt that triggered the dispute in the first place and said it had duly resumed normal gas supplies to the small former Soviet republic. Gazprom had previously reduced supply by as much as 60 per cent.

For its part, Belarus, which had threatened to block Russian gas supplies to Europe on Thursday, said it had received much of the $260 million it alleged that Russia owed it in transit fees. It appeared to back away from its earlier threat to disrupt European supplies.

But though over for now, the dispute is likely to leave many European policy-makers with a bitter aftertaste and reinforce doubts about the wisdom of relying on Russia so heavily for the bloc's energy needs. Lithuania, an EU member state, saw its gas supply plunge by forty per cent at one point due to the dispute and EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger described the debacle as "an attack" on the whole of the EU.


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