Belarus threatens Russia over gas debt

Belarus threatens to cut off Russian oil and gas supplies to Europe unless Moscow pays its debt amid a deepening energy row between the two countries.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that the Russian energy giant Gazprom should pay off its USD 260 million debt for transit fees within two days, otherwise Minsk will halt Europe-bound energy supplies delivered by Russia.

"I once again warn the government: Gazprom's failure to fully pay for services in the next days must lead to a halt of any services on the shipment of hydrocarbons -- both oil and gas -- for Russia," AFP quoted Lukashenko as saying on Friday.

"You have the opportunity -- come to an agreement. But you have two days," He added.

Meanwhile, Gazprom issued a statement on Friday, saying it owes nothing in transit fees to Minsk for Russian oil and gas supplies to Europe.

"Gazprom does not owe anything to Belarus according to the conditions of the current contract," the energy giant announced.

Gazprom, however, noted that under a new deal, which could be signed in the near future, it has agreed in principle to pay a higher transit fee.

The energy row between Moscow and Minsk has intensified since Tuesday when Russia slashed its gas supplies to Belarus by 35 percent and then 60 percent a day after Belarus allegedly defaulted on its debt of an estimated USD 200 million.

While much of Europe is heavily dependent on the Russian gas piped through Belarus, Lukashenko has ordered a shutdown of Russian gas transit deliveries to European countries like Germany, Poland and Lithuania.


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