Russia accuses Belarus of underpaying for gas

MOSCOW, May 21 (Reuters) - Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom on Friday accused Belarus of not paying enough for gas deliveries and amassing debts in a comment raising the prospect of a new stand-off and supply cuts to Europe.

"Basically they (Belarus) are paying what they want and not what we are charging them," said Gazprom's spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov.

He said Belarus is paying $150 per 1,000 cubic metres since the beginning of the year instead of $169.2 that Gazprom was charging in the first quarter and $184.8 in the second.

He added Belarus' debt grew to $192 million from $137 million at the end of the first quarter.

"If it goes like this the debt could grow to $500-$600 million by the year-end," he said.

Belarus pays the lowest price among Gazprom's customers but has repeatedly clashed with Moscow saying it should pay less for oil and gas if Moscow is serious about developing closer ties with Minsk.

The clashes have led to a chill in political relations between Russian leaders and Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, who has also been courting the West.

Russia supplies a quarter of Europe's gas needs with four fifths of supplies flowing through Ukraine and one fifth via Belarus.

Pricing disputes with transit states have repeatedly led to cuts in gas and oil supplies to the European Union, making it keen to diversify its sources of supply away from Russia.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)


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