Belarus-Russia: Battle is won but is the war over?

Written by Hanna Vasilevich/

The highly discussed situation on the new vintage of the Belarus-Russia gas war was finally solved. Belarus had paid its debt to Russia USD 187 million for gas, while Russia paid Belarus USD 228 million for the transit. The gas supply to the EU was restored, the conflict is considered to be settled.

Starting from Monday June 21st Russian state monopolist Gazprom, following the order of the Russian president Medvedev, limited gas supply to Belarus for 15 per cent with the later increase up to 85 per cent. Russian side explained the conflict by the existed debt for the delivered gas in the amount of ca. USD 200 million.

At the same time Belarus did not recognize the existed dept of the gas delivery, stating that it Russia had had even higher debt to Belarus for the transit. According to the President Lukasenka the Russian dept was USD 260 million.

The conflict was not resolved till Wednesday, June 23, when Belarusian side finally paid its debt, however not in the sum of USD 200 million - as Russians demanded - but USD 187 million. After that Russian side paid its dept for the transit, which was also lower that Belarusian side stated and expected: USD 228 million instead of USD 260 million.

The discrepancy in numbers is lying in different prices that each side believed to follow. Belarusian first prime-minister Siamaska in his prompt press-conference in Minsk stated that following the establishment of the Belarus-Russia Union State each of parties should have created equal conditions for activities of their economic agents on the territory of other party. Instead of this in practice, Siamaska said, Belarusian economic agents paid USD 217 per 1000 cubic meters, while the gas price for Russian Smolensk region that borders Belarus did not exceed USD 103. At the same time, according to the Belarusian official, during the first five months of 2010 Gazprom "had not paid a single cent for the gas transit"

At the same time Siamaska stated that the tariff for the gas transit through Belarus should be higher: USD 1.74 per 1000 cubic meters instead of USD 1.45 that Russian Gazprom was paying. Basing on this calculation Belarus keeps demanding further USD 30 million additionally to USD 228 million that Russia has already paid.

Following the new vintage of the gas war which from time to time becomes more acute, Belarusian President Lukasenka in his interview to the Euronews explained why he believed such crisis happened. According to Lukasenka, the conflict had political reasons. He considered it a political pressure on the eve of the presidential elections in Belarus. As Lukasenka stated, both Belarusian opposition and Russian political elite expected him to give up everything in order to receive the Kremlin's support. However, he denied such factor, stating that he did not need anything but the support of the Belarusian people. As a result of this conflict Lukasenka introduced Russia as a not trustworthy partner for Europe, so that Europe should start searching for the alternative ways of hydrocarbon materials supply.

Considering the fact that Belarus supplies 20 per cent of the transit of Russian gas to the EU countries, the European Union was closely following the situation with the new conflict bearing in mind the Russia-Ukraine gas war 1.5 years ago that left many Central European countries without gas for two weeks during the winter.

After paying Russia, Uladzimir Siamaska in his comments to BelaPAN stated that the EU energy Commissioner called him and thanked for the reasonable and balanced policies. The EU representative stated: "After Russia paid you USD 228 million and you as a goodwill gesture had paid them USD 187 million before, I realise whose fault this conflict is."

Thus, despite the fact that formally the conflict has been calmed down and for some parties it is considered to be settled, there are still some questions on the price for the transit over the Belarusian territory, which might provoke further fuelling of the gas war. Therefore, despite the fact that the battle is won, the question still is whether the war is over.


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