Minsk to pursue energy diversity strategy

MINSK, Belarus, June 29 (UPI) -- Belarus will look to alternate energy suppliers in the wake of a gas row with Russia that threatened European energy security, the Belarusian president said.

Russian energy monopoly Gazprom last week cut gas supplies to Belarus by 15 percent, threatening to cut supplies by 85 percent if Minsk didn't come forward with its $200 million in gas debt. Minsk argued that Moscow was obligated to a similar amount in transit fees.

Both sides settled the issue last week.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country would look to diversify its energy partnerships to avoid another gas row with Moscow, Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports.

"We are buying and will buy energy : from Russia," Lukashenko said. "No one will fully replace Russia in this respect but we will gradually seek an alternative."

Russian ships 80 percent of its gas to Europe through Ukraine and the remainder through Belarus. Kiev was asked to take on emergency supplies if the row with Minsk continued.

Minsk, the president said, was looking to increase imports of oil from Venezuela as part of a diversification strategy.

"We have to follow this path, as well as working on the issues of supplying cheap natural gas and other energy carriers to Belarus," he was quoted as saying.


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