Minsk denies link to meat and gas pipeline

MINSK, Belarus, July 22 (UPI) -- Belarus disputed allegations it had suspended operations at a section of a pipeline from Russia to Latvia in response to a ban on imports of meat by Russia.

Russian officials earlier this week announced a ban on Belarusian meat citing health issues. The two countries engaged in a bitter regulatory row earlier this year over dairy products, which bring Belarus around $1 billion in annual revenue.

Belarus shut down operations on a section of the Unecha-Ventspils oil pipeline for technical reasons Tuesday, but denied the suspension was linked to the meat ban, RIA Novosti reports.

Russian energy giant Gazprom in June said it gave official notice on late gas payments to Belarus, though Minsk at the time denied it received any such information.

Russia had offered Belarus gas in 2007 at a substantial discount provided that price would reach parity with European prices by 2011.

Despite the latest row, both countries have expressed interest in moving ahead with the construction of a second leg of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline.

Minsk said the project could start bringing gas to Europe within the next two years at a moderately low cost compared with other planned gas arteries.

Yamal-Europe transits more than 1,200 miles across Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany. The capacity of the first leg is around 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year.



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