President says Belarus may halt Russian natural gas transit

MOSCOW, Jun 25 (PRIME-TASS) -- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday said Belarus would halt Russian gas transit if Russian gas giant Gazprom failed to pay a debt for transit, ITAR-TASS reported.

"Gazprom's failure to fully pay for (transit) services within a day must result in a halt of all hydrocarbon transit services for Russia," he said.

Lukashenko also called for reducing Belarus' dependence on Russia and looking for new markets and sources of investment. He said Belarus was seeking to cooperate with China, Venezuela, and African and Middle Eastern countries.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesman, denied that the gas giant owed a debt to Belarus.

He also said Gazprom expected to soon sign an addendum to its gas supply and transit contract with Belarus. He did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, a European Commission spokesman said Russian gas transit through Belarus to the E.U. had not yet been disrupted.

Additionally, a Russian government source said Gazprom and Belarus had not yet reached an agreement on the payment of a $1 million penalty by Belarus for failing to meet payment deadlines in 2010.

The reports indicate a resumption of the Russian-Belarusian gas row after the countries said Thursday they had put an end to the dispute.


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