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Gas row resolved?

June 24, 2010

Russia claims to have paid a debt to Belarus after a threat by Minsk to cut the flow of gas supplies into Europe. Earlier, Russian gas giant Gazprom had resumed fuel supplies to Belarus.

A Belarus worker on duty at a gas compressor station
Belarus said that Russia had to pay transit chargesImage: AP

Russian gas giant Gazprom said that it had paid off its gas transit debt to Belarus after the country set a deadline to shut off gas supplies to Europe.

Belarus was seeking a payment of 212 million euros ($260 million) in transit fees to pipeline operator Beltrangaz for the use of its network to export gas.

"The payment to Beltransgaz for gas transit has now been made," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said. "There are currently no problems that would hinder gas transit and gas supplies to Belarus."

However, officials in Belarus said they were unable to confirm that the debt had been paid and said that the country was still prepared to halt gas supplies to the European Union.

A Gazprom sign
Gazprom reduced the gas supply to Belarus, demanding payment from the countryImage: picture alliance/dpa

Belarus had earlier paid Gazprom its own outstanding bill for gas, with Moscow resuming gas supplies to the country. Belarusian First Deputy Premier Vladimir Semashko said the 156 million euros owed to Gazprom had paid been as a "matter of goodwill" and set a deadline for the company to pay its debt.

"I demand that by 10 am tomorrow it pays accumulated debt," Semashko said on Wednesday, adding that if payment is not received from Gazprom, "we will be forced to stop the transit of hydrocarbons across Belarusian territory."

On Wednesday, Russian gas giant Gazprom said that gas supplies to Belarus would be resumed after receiving payment.

Earlier in the week, Russia had reduced gas supplies to 60 percent of the normal level, claiming Minsk had failed to pay its debt to Gazprom. Moscow had threatened to continue to reduce gas flow further if the bill was not settled.

Russia, the world's largest energy exporter, supplies some 25 percent of Europe's gas needs, with some four-fifths flowing through Ukraine and one-fifth through Belarus.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner